Fire Island debris-removal contract draws another protest

Large piles of debris remain on the front Large piles of debris remain on the front lawns of some of the homes in Ocean Beach, NY. (Jan 18, 2013) Photo Credit: Ed Betz

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A federal small-business contract to remove superstorm Sandy debris from Fire Island has sparked another protest.

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman said the agency received a protest from one of the contract bidders Tuesday, five days after the job was awarded to Bay Shore-based Custom Earth Recycling for $10.5 million.

The company was scheduled to begin removing debris from Point O' Woods and Davis Park this past weekend, and that work will proceed while the protest is investigated, the Army Corps said.

Debris removal was supposed to begin at the end of January -- and the end-of-March deadline for removing about 9,650 tons of Sandy debris looms large. Access to the barrier island's oceanfront properties will be limited after March 15, when the state-endangered piping plover birds starts to nest.

The contract has been mired in controversy since it was first awarded Jan. 25 to Central Islip-based DS3 Enterprises Inc. for $8.8 million. Five days later, one of the bidders filed a protest claiming that DS3 Enterprises didn't meet the contract's requirements for years of experience and that most of the work on the contract would be done by a Louisiana-based company.

The Army Corps then determined that the proper criteria for awarding the contract hadn't been followed and yanked the contract from DS3 Enterprises, naming Custom Earth as the new winner.

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Now, that company's status as a small business is being questioned, corps spokesman John Campbell said.

"In this instance, the challenge is that they don't fit the criteria as outlined by the Small Business Administration, so this time the protest has been moved to the SBA and we're awaiting their determination," Campbell said.

Custom Earth spokesman Jim Pratt said a thorough review of the company's business records "will confirm that it meets each and every criteria that was requested by the RFP [request for proposals]."

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"The Corps recognizes the debris continues to pose a health and safety threat, and we understand the urgency of resolving this issue as quickly as possible," the agency said in a statement.

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