Blizzard Resulted in $1.25 Million Windfall For Blue Jay Backhoe Company

Despite some miserable atmospheric conditions, Travis Snyder had a wonderful winter.
Snyder, the owner of Advantage Backhoes, a company he founded in 2007, true to his business’s name, had already put himself into an advantageous position by locating his company in Lake Arrowhead, Crestline and Blue Jay.
As such, Snyder had been able to obtain three years ago a $1.25 million contract with San Bernardino County and its public works division for the operation of equipment for snow removal, for the period running from October 27, 2020 through June 30, 2025.
In February, what has now become known as Blizzard of ’23 descended on Southern California, an unrelenting 11-day period in which San Bernardino County’s mountain communities in both the San Bernardino Mountains and San Bernardino National Forest/San Gorgonio Wilderness to the east and the San Gabriel and Angeles National Forest to the west were blanketed in snow drifts reaching or exceeding ten feet in depth.
The snow fell so rapidly that by the second day, cars parked in driveways, on the shoulders and sides of roads and in parking lots that had not been moved during that time were completely covered in snow and no longer visible, such that only those who knew their location were able to recognize they were there.On March 3, San Bernardino County Fire Chief Dan Munsey was asked to assess how the county could better respond to extreme weather circumstances than it was. He said, “When it comes to roads and clearing the roads, I think our men and women that work for the County of San Bernardino and public works, CalTrans did their darnedest. They were out there 24 hours a day, just like our firefighters. They were plowing the roads. Unfortunately, the snow came down so quickly and stacked up so quickly, that those front-end plows that we’re so used to using on a routine basis became ineffective. What we found out is you truly need some specialized equipment when you have blizzards coming.”
Munsey said, that “even if the county had gone out and leased the equipment, it would not have been here in time to keep our roads clean. So now we’re left with getting specialized equipment. We can always do better. We need better plans when it comes to severe blizzards. We need to have leases set up that allow us to get the equipment quicker. We need to have agreements set up to allow private contractors to come in.”
County officials are now seeking to actuate those contemplated plans for readiness.
Brendon Biggs, the county’s public works director next Tuesday is asking the board of supervisors to authorize the doubling of Snyder’s contract.
In a report postdated to April 25, Biggs wrote, “On February 22, 2023, the start of an extreme weather event impacted various portions of the county. This event produced conditions of peril to the safety of persons and property within the county. On February 28, 2023, the [county’s] chief executive officer [Leonard Hernandez], while serving as the director of emergency services, proclaimed the existence of a local emergency. On February 28, 2023, the board of supervisors ratified the action of the director of emergency services in proclaiming the existence of a local emergency as a result of the extreme weather event and continued the local emergency for [an] additional period in accordance with San Bernardino County Government Code section 8630(c). In further response to the ongoing local emergency, on March 1, 2023, the board approved delegated authority to the chair [Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dawn Rowe], CEO [Hernandez], county chief financial officer [Matthew Erickson], and Fire Chief [Munsey] to approve any and all contracts or agreements, including contracts with non-standard language as identified in County Policy 11-05, Section B, necessary to provide any and all assistance necessary to ensure the health and welfare of the residents of the impacted areas during the emergency, as well as the provisions of county resources, services and expenditures to ensure the pubic and first responders have access to necessary infrastructure such as grocery stores, gas stations, utilities and pubic infrastructure. The [public works] department utilized various existing board approved on-call vendors in response to the extreme weather event and resulting local emergency, including the on-call storm maintenance services Contract No. 20-1005 with Travis D Snyder dba Advantage Backhoes (Advantage Backhoes) approved by the board on October 27, 2020. However, additional operators were required to operate county-owned equipment for emergency snow removal services necessary to provide assistance to ensure the health and welfare of the residents of the impacted areas during the local emergency. Amendment No. 1 to Contract No. 20-1005 allows for Advantage Backhoes to provide operators-only at an hourly rate and requires all operators to sign a release from liability waiver prior to use of any county-owned equipment. The contract amendment executed by the CEO [Hernandez] on March 30, 2023, pursuant to the board’s delegated authority, is required to be brought back to the board for ratification within 30 days of execution. On October 27, 2020, the board approved contracts with 23 vendors to provide on-call storm maintenance services. This item included Contract No. 20-1005 with Advantage Backhoes, in an amount not-to-exceed $1,250,000 with a contract term of October 27, 2020 through June 30, 2025. Expenditures under this contract are reaching the not-to-exceed amount of $1,250,000 due to this vendor being the lowest bidder for responding to flood and extreme weather events since September 2022. The proposed contract Amendment No. 2 will increase the total not-to-exceed contract amount from $1,250,000 to $2,500,000 to allow the county to continue to receive and accept bids from Advantage Backhoes for on-call storm maintenance services to be used on routine maintenance projects, public projects not-to-exceed the amount identified in Public Contract Code section 22032(a), and emergency projects (following applicable provisions of the Public Contract Code). The proposed Amendment No. 2 will allow the county to utilize Advantage Backhoes, for an additional $1,250,000 for specific projects on an as-needed basis. Having a list of readily accessible pre-qualified vendors available for on-call storm maintenance services provides good value to the county and aligns with the county and the CEO’s goals and objectives to provide for the safety of county residents and to operate in a fiscally-responsible and business-like manner.”
-Mark Gutglueck

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