Safeguards sought in Nevada government bidding bill
April 19, 2003
Gov. Kenny Guinn’s energy adviser said Friday he’s open to amendments that would tighten a Guinn-backed bill to scrap a low-bid process for energy conservation jobs on government buildings.
Carl Linvill, director of the state Energy Office, also said critics of the current version of AB398, sponsored chiefly by Assemblyman Jason Geddes, R-Reno, need to get their ideas to legislators who could amend the plan.
Linvill said he shares the concerns about a potential “good old boy” network and wasted taxpayer dollars — but there’s time left in the 2003 session to revise the bill rather than have those concerns used as an excuse for not passing the measure.
Critics include Greg Macrenaris, who has questioned why Reno-based Gardner Engineering got most of the energy-saving projects at the University of Nevada, Reno in recent years. He said the bill could cause similar deals throughout the state — a few firms locking up millions of dollars’ worth of contracts and excluding competition.
Jim Gardner of Gardner Engineering — who has termed Macrenaris’ questions about the UNR contracts “sour grapes” — supports AB398. But Linvill said Gardner’s backing developed after the measure was introduced.
Linvill said initial supporters included an energy services coalition and subsidiaries of big utilities such as Nevada-based Sierra Pacific Resources and Michigan-based CMS Energy Corp.
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Macrenaris said AB398 lacks adequate state oversight in its current form, and possible changes could include an independent person who would monitor the energy conservation jobs.
“To say these projects are needed is one thing,” Macrenaris added. “But to say there should be no control is idiotic because this is taxpayers’ money.”
Energy consultant Paul Normandie, who directed the state’s first efforts to use a qualifications-based proposal similar to the one in AB398, agreed that more safeguards are needed. His preference is a review by the state Public Works Board. That’s not in the bill now.
But Normandie also said, “This bill has to pass” because it will enable the state and local governments to achieve big savings in their energy bills.
Geddes, Linvill and other backers of AB398 say the cost of the energy-saving projects would be covered over time by the savings achieved by reduced power bills.
Linvill also said other states have passed similar laws and have done many projects aimed at cutting their power bills.
While Geddes has said he’s aware of the UNR problems, he also said AB398 would help jump-start innovative energy-saving projects that wouldn’t get done under a traditional low-bidder process.
With a straight low-bidder process, he said the result would be limited energy-saving jobs — like “a series of light bulb replacements.”