BY MICHAEL RICONDA
NEW CITY – The Rockland County Legislature voted on Tuesday evening to override the county executive’s veto of its Brega Transportation contract vote and approved an extension of county bus services.
The legislature voted in September to award the contract to the lowest responsible bidder, which was agreed to be Brega. However, County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef vetoed the resolution.
A statement by Vanderhoef argued that the legislature acted improperly by accepting a bid on grounds that “materially differed” from the bid request. The confusion began when Brega failed to formally submit a bid for the contract. But Brega then put in a bid that was lower than MV Transportation and Coach, the other companies who sought the contract.
The legislature voted on September 19 to hold Brega as the lowest responsible bidder, pointing to Brega’s prior transportation record in Rockland County, acting to end a protracted legal conflict between Brega, MV Transportation, and the legislature.
In response to the vote, MV Transportation, the next-lowest bidder, announced that it would file suit against Brega and the legislature for what they claimed to be an instance of local favoritism.
The override vote was successful, though Legislators Harriet Cornell and Nancy Low-Hogan cast two nay votes.
Chairwoman Cornell explained that she voted against the override to end a confusing and difficult situation, which she said could jeopardize federal funding for the county’s bus services.
Low-Hogan explained that her vote was a response to recommendations from the county that none of the bids were acceptable because they all had bid variances. “All three bidders had variances,” Low-Hogan stated. “I would have voted the same way regardless of if it was Brega or the other two bidders.”
The Legislature also approved an extension of county bus services to prevent any breaks that could result from prolonged bidding processes. The extensions were included in Referrals 8293 and 2825, which approved three contracts with Hudson Transit Lines, the Tappan Zee Express Bus Service, and Rockland Transit Corp. The contracts will cover transportation routes for the time period between October 1 and December 31, 2012.
The override and extensions come at a time of concern over lengthy transit contract disputes, which could interfere with continued operations. Legislator Ilan Schoenberger said that the goal of the extension was to ensure that there would be no break in service.
Schoenberger also challenged the concern that the override would prompt federal authorities to penalize the county by withholding funding, arguing that Judge Francis Nicolai, who presided over Brega’s lawsuit for the contract and ruled in their favor, provided a good directive for the legislature’s actions.
“We were presented with a resolution, we were presented with limited information, and we were asked to make a decision,” Schoenberger said. “I personally believe we have a right to award a bid pursuant to Judge Nicolai’s discretion.”