Aeronautics Board Stands By Decision


    GRAND RAPIDS — The Kent County Aeronautics Board upheld award of a contract to D&R Security Inc. Wednesday despite the protest of another company that was a runner-up for the contract.

    Corporate Security Solutions (CSS) Inc. was one of 19 vendors that vied for the security services contract at Gerald R. Ford International Airport, and was one of the top three picks. The company’s proposal was actually $338,332 lower than D&R’s proposal over the three-year life of the contract.

    CSS formally protested the award in a letter to board members Nov. 1.

    “We know that CSS presents the best value to Gerald Ford International Airport and furthermore bests the capabilities and references of our competition,” wrote Timothy Frain of CSS’s government services division. “Justifying the committee’s decision to turn down a $335,000 savings from a high quality local security agency has us more than a little mystified.”

    The airport’s purchasing division and Department of Aeronautics staff reviewed the proposals and selected D&R Security, CSS and DK Security as the top finalists. The review committee dropped DK Security from the running because the firm did not have previous airport experience, explained Robert Benstein, the airport’s public safety and operations director.

    As the committee noted: “Though CSS has previous airport experience, they pay their employees less, which contributes to higher turnover. In addition, there recently have been several security incidents involving CSS at GFIA.”

    Bruce Schedlbauer, GFIA’s manager of marketing and communications, said CSS has not worked directly for the airport, but did work at the airport as a sub-contractor to Diversco, the contractor for the general aviation ramp reconstruction project. He said D&R Security has been providing the airport’s security services and has held that contract since it originally went up for bid. Under the contract, D&R provides security at three vehicle gates at the airport and along the terminal curb, for a total of 1,078 hours per week. 

    Deputy Aeronautics Director Phillip Johnson said cost was just one factor in the selection process; other factors were experience, references, local presence, compensation benefits and employee turnover. He said the review committee did look closely at the cost savings presented by the CSS proposal.

    “Underneath experience, I think one of the most important factors that the committee looked at was the experience at airports,” Johnson said, noting that CSS has experience working with two other airports. “However, what weighed heavily on the minds of the review committee was what happened over the last three months here with one of their employees.”

    Johnson said three recent security breaches involving CSS personnel left the committee with questions as to the type of personnel CSS hires and the kinds of decisions they’re making on the job. The personnel issue, he said, “was a real negative factor.”

    “Security is of utmost importance in what we do here — more important than the cost of the proposal,” Johnson said.

    Dave Stricklen, GFIA’s chief law enforcement officer, told the board that D&R has solid experience with the airport, while CSS isn’t “a known factor.” He noted that one of CSS’s security breaches could have landed the airport an $11,000 fine from the federal Transportation Security Administration.

    “To us, it was too great a risk, knowing the company had security lapses,” Stricklen said. “We can’t afford to have any security lapses whatsoever. We have a known quantity in D&R Security.”

    Board member Dean Agee hopes the fallout from the CSS protest might actually do some good.   

    “My hope is that coming out of this, we’re sending a very clear message to any vendor at this airport that we take security very, very seriously.”   

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