An attorney for a company competing for a vending service with the Upshur County School system believes his client should have been awarded the project, alleging his client's bid actually was lower than the bid that was selected.
Buckhannon attorney Steve Nanners represented Patrick Martin, the owner of Superior Vending LLC, at last week's meeting of the school board. Martin was contesting the Board of Education's decision to go with a competitor's services, saying the choice went against the outlined bid criteria.
"My client should be the one that the board is approving," Nanners said.
Martin's business is one of two vendors that competed in the bid to provide snacks in vending machines to school children.
Nanners said the criteria set forth in the bid involved which vendor could submit the highest amount of commission that the school board would receive from the sale of the product. The competitor, Mister Vend Inc. of Clarksburg, submitted a bid of 26.5 percent, whereas Superior Vending's bid was submitted at 33 percent of gross revenues going to the school board.
Nanners said the competing bidder already was providing services to Washington District Elementary and Buckhannon-Upshur Middle schools at wholesale prices.
"That's improper; that's the kickback," Nanners said, alleging that the board could be approving illegal conduct. He said the recommendation to approve the vendors, listed on the agenda for the Tuesday meeting, violated the bidding process.
Nanners said he and Martin believe the bid was changed because of a threat that Mister Vend would no longer provide products at wholesale prices if that company wasn't selected.
Dr. Scott Lampinen, the Upshur County Schools superintendent, said the cost per item also was evaluated in the bidding process.
"We were trying to save the kids some money and look at who was the best overall," said Cynthia Nesselroade, director of child nutrition.
She said Mister Vend Inc. was chosen because the prices of products from Superior Vending were "considerably more."
Nanners said the documents in the invitation to bid do not address the cost per unit for students.
"It's ludicrous to say that we're not concerned about how much money we're going to make when the sole criteria in the written bid proposal is the amount of commission being submitted," Nanners said.
Nesselroade said the bid language is "quite vague."
"It's people's livelihood, and I took it really seriously," Nesselroade said.
Board member Patrick Long suggested that the board have a chance to review the bids before voting, including "snacks, drinks, everything." President Teresa Bellamy and board member Greenbrier Almond both verbally agreed.
The school board agreed to table the issue. A final decision will be made at the next board meeting, which is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday.