Pittsburgh (PA) Officials Reviewing Bid for Fire Apparatus

The Pittsburgh Office of Municipal Investigations has launched a probe into claims that a bid to supply fire equipment was tailored to favor a company for which the city fire chief once worked.

Chief Darryl Jones said he has not worked for Kennedy-based Keystone Fire Apparatus for years, was not a prolific salesman and has little contact with the owner outside the realm of business. He said the specifications for the bid and proposals were evaluated by a committee of fire bureau employees and he did not influence the process.

Public Safety Director Michael Huss said the chief erred by not disclosing the previous employment to him and the concerns presented by four companies that did not win the contract warranted an OMI investigation.

Chief Jones worked for the company as a contracted salesman from July 2000 to December 2004, according to company vice president Paula Ball. He estimated that during that time he made only one or two sales.

He became the Pittsburgh fire chief in July 2007 and did not immediately disclose his previous relationship with Keystone Fire Apparatus in part, he said, because he assumed the city would have found it during his background check.

“I was no longer with Keystone at the time that I was hired,” Chief Jones said. “The city did do a very thorough background investigation of me … I just assumed, I figured it was going to come up. I did not know at the time that Keystone was going to bid on rigs.”

Keystone Fire Apparatus has supplied the city with eight trucks in the past year and a half for a total of roughly $3.6 million, according to company president Tom Ball. At the center of the latest controversy is a bid to supply two fire trucks — one for the city of Pittsburgh and one for Wilkinsburg.

Bid tabulation documents show the lowest bid in that process was submitted in 2012 by Missouri-based Precision Fire Apparatus, which submitted a bid of $428,986 per truck, and the second-lowest was submitted by Keystone Fire Apparatus at $436,577 per truck.

The specifications for the rigs are created by an apparatus committee that includes Chief Jones, Assistant Chief Tom Cook and members of the fire union. The committee sends its specifications to the Equipment Leasing Authority, which sends out the requests for proposals.

When the authority receives the bids, it sends them back to the apparatus committee for feedback about whether they meet the requirements. The proposal seeking bids was 70 pages long.

Typical practice, Chief Jones said, is to ask committee members to read through the documents for the lowest bid first. If that meets the specifications, it wins and committee members do not review any of the additional bids, the chief said.

In this instance, Chief Cook prepared a list of 64 reasons why he felt the bid from Precision Fire Apparatus did not clearly meet the specifications. His list included, among other things, references to the bid offering a 15-year rust-through warranty instead of a 20-year warranty, offering a 2013 model instead of a 2012 model, and instances where the dimensions listed did not match the ones the bureau sought.

Chief Jones provided the Post-Gazette with a copy of a letter the apparatus committee sent him requesting guidance on whether it should reject the proposal from Precision.

He also supplied an email exchange in which he forwarded that letter to the authority without including a position on the issue. He received a response from the authority quoting its solicitor that said, in part, “Based upon the information supplied by the Bureau of Fire, Precision’s bid, while quoting the lowest price, is not necessarily the lowest responsible and responsive proposal, and can be rejected.”

Jim Keltner, co-owner of Precision Fire Apparatus, said many of the things Chief Cook noted were typos.

“In this case we thought we were the lowest bidder and did not understand why we weren’t awarded the bid,” he said.

Others who were initially interested worded their criticism more strongly.

In an October 2011 letter sent to authority chairman Scott Kunka following a pre-bid meeting, representatives from four companies wrote, “It is clear to all the signed potential bidders, that the City’s specifications were published using a particular apparatus supplier’s configuration software and have led to a highly proprietary specification that favors one manufacturer.”

The letter was signed by Dan Coyle of Toyne, David Grace of Rosenbauer, Tim Burkhart of Crimson Fire and Rodney Gehring of KME.

For more information, view www.post-gazette.com


Pittsburgh (PA) Officials Reviewing Bid for Fire Apparatus

The Pittsburgh Office of Municipal Investigations has launched a probe into claims that a bid to supply fire equipment was tailored to favor a company for which the city fire chief once worked.

Chief Darryl Jones said he has not worked for Kennedy-based Keystone Fire Apparatus for years, was not a prolific salesman and has little contact with the owner outside the realm of business. He said the specifications for the bid and proposals were evaluated by a committee of fire bureau employees and he did not influence the process.

Public Safety Director Michael Huss said the chief erred by not disclosing the previous employment to him and the concerns presented by four companies that did not win the contract warranted an OMI investigation.

Chief Jones worked for the company as a contracted salesman from July 2000 to December 2004, according to company vice president Paula Ball. He estimated that during that time he made only one or two sales.

He became the Pittsburgh fire chief in July 2007 and did not immediately disclose his previous relationship with Keystone Fire Apparatus in part, he said, because he assumed the city would have found it during his background check.

“I was no longer with Keystone at the time that I was hired,” Chief Jones said. “The city did do a very thorough background investigation of me … I just assumed, I figured it was going to come up. I did not know at the time that Keystone was going to bid on rigs.”

Keystone Fire Apparatus has supplied the city with eight trucks in the past year and a half for a total of roughly $3.6 million, according to company president Tom Ball. At the center of the latest controversy is a bid to supply two fire trucks — one for the city of Pittsburgh and one for Wilkinsburg.

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