The City of Bayonne has authorized an amendment to its current contract with Bespoke Health for the COVID-19 vaccination site of the Korpi Ice Rink in order to increase the amount of the contract.
The board voted to increase the contract amount from $ 3,500,000 to $ 7,000,000, doubling the amount at its December meeting. The move took place before the city opened an additional COVID-19 test site by Bespoke at the Veterans Stadium, which was then moved inside the ice rink behind the Lycée de Bayonne at 669 avenue A in due to winter weather conditions.
Contract awarded in case of emergency
The vote to approve the contract amendment was preceded by a lively discussion on the tendering process. City council president Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski disputed the fact that the contract was not sent out to bid.
“I think this violates local public contracting law,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “We did not send this to bid. We are not allowed to simply distribute contracts without going through a tendering process. “
In response, General Counsel Jay Coffey said the contract was allowed to be awarded this way due to the public health emergency.
“The tailor-made was concluded as part of the response to the pandemic. From what I understood at the time, the Governor, one of his two hundred and twenty edicts, allowed such contracts to be entered into without resorting to a public tendering process.
Ashe-Nadrowski agreed that at the time it was awarded it was an emergency. But she argued that there was a long time to research potential alternative operators since then.
“We knew it would happen at the end of the year,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “It should have been tendered three months ago with the manager.”
Coffey countered that the public health emergency is still active until January 11 in some respects. Ashe-Nadrowski noted that this is ending soon.
Ascending amount, no length
CFO Donna Mauer said the contract does not expire until April 2022 and the resolution only changes the contract to increase the amount, without extending its duration.
“From month to month, we didn’t know how much it was going to cost,” Mauer said. “Every month we pay it, it goes to FEMA and we get the money back. “
“Just because it’s FEMA money doesn’t mean we should be paying $ 300 a shot when we’re at 600 a month,” Ashe-Nadrowski said.
Ashe-Nadrowski also argued that the amendment violates public contract law because the increase is more than 20%, which she says is not allowed. Mauer countered that this was allowed due to COVID-19.
“It was awarded in connection with the emergency,” Mauer said. “It was allowed in an emergency.”
Ashe-Nadrowski argued that the emergency was coming to an end and the council should have gone through the public tendering process to find a contract before the emergency ended. Mauer said the amendment was going to go to council as it is above 20 percent and reiterated that the contract runs until April.
“If it wasn’t more than 20 percent, it wouldn’t be subject to the board,” Mauer said. “We are not extending the contract. The council awarded the contract for one year.
Current costs too expensive?
According to Ashe-Nadrowski, she said she understood the importance and need for vaccines, but pointed to the current contract price as a reason to explore alternatives to the current contract.
“I think this emergency is over in a way,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “The pharmacies in Bayonne do that… I spoke to a pharmacist today, he does it for $ 40 a shot. It costs us about $ 300 a shot.
Ashe-Nadrowski acknowledged that there was a slight increase in cases, but that the site was not seeing large numbers of people being vaccinated.
“We have three months of numbers,” she said. “We don’t pay these people per shot. We pay them to sit there whether someone comes or not. Because the number of hits they give is low, they give about 1,000 a month, or about $ 300 per hit to the arm. The pharmacy does it for $ 40, it doesn’t cost us any money… We should have tendered the contract and checked the bidders.
Ashe-Nadrowski added that she had not heard any comments regarding Bespoke.
“We don’t even know anything about this business,” she said. “Do we have any feedback? Are people happy with themselves? I do not know.”
She wondered if there were more viable alternatives, such as local vendors or small businesses: “Some of our pharmacies will actually come home and do vaccinations.”
However, Ashe-Nadrowski did not dispute Bespoke’s retention as an operator at this time, but wanted to bid correctly for the contract.
“I’m not saying we shouldn’t be doing this,” she said. “I think we can maybe just do a one month extension and go through the proper process to see what other offers we get and what the price is.”
The best of both worlds
Third Ward City Councilor Gary La Pelusa agreed to explore alternatives, suggesting that council approve the change to the existing contract while looking for a potential replacement.
“I think it would be the safe thing to do is turn it off,” La Pelusa said. “See if we get a lower offer. Otherwise, we don’t know what’s on the table.
Coffey said Bespoke was reviewing what they expected when signing the contract and that it would normally be explored whether or not to renew it when it expires in April. He added that the figures for November included just under 1,000 people vaccinated at the site throughout the month, from around 600 in September to around 700 in October.
“It’s increased in the last couple of months, not dramatically, but I think this month will have more,” Coffey said of the number in December.
The board agreed that there could be an increase now with the number of people receiving their booster shots as more people become eligible. But Ashe-Nadrowski argued that local pharmacies might be able to handle the demand for vaccines as it comes down after the holidays. Although there has recently been a high demand for COVID-19 tests, the demand for vaccinations has not changed much.
The city councilor of the first quarter, Neill Caroll, supported the continuation of the contract with Bespoke.
“Right now that’s the price we’re on offer,” Carroll said. “I don’t think it’s prudent or good government right now to disrupt this. It’s a matter of safety… Lives are saved. Regarding small errands and visits to other pharmacies, I support them all. But we’re entering a cold season… You’ve got lines at the door and people can’t be served. I think it absolutely must pass.
La Pelusa was not averse to relaunching the contract, but also supported the current operator: “I would like to see if there is anything much less. If there isn’t, I haven’t heard any bad feedback from this company at all. I don’t see what the problem will be with giving an extra month.
The board can cancel the current contract
Ashe-Nadrowski asked if the board was stuck in the contract, to which Coffey noted there is a termination clause.
“This contract is for a full year,” Coffey said. “We have increased it because of the volume of injections that have been provided… The extra $ 3.5 million is just so we don’t have to come back… While the total contract amount will now amount to $ 7 million, we could only spend $ 3,550,001. . “
Coffey added that the board could pursue what it suggested earlier regarding both modifying the current contract and finding a new one. After much debate, the board then voted unanimously to approve the resolution amending the contract to $ 7 million. The municipal councilor of the second quarter, Sal Gullace, was absent.
As a result, the board approved a resolution authorizing the buyer to tender for the provision of an immunization service. The board may follow up on this matter at its next meeting in January.
The City Council will meet on January 19 at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall Council Chamber at 630 Avenue C. For more information, visit bayonnenj.org and click on the event on the page Calendar web.
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