County to buy new bulldozer for landfill

By Alex Bridges

WOODSTOCK — Shenandoah County will buy a bulldozer for the landfill from a dealer involved in making the advertisement for the vehicle.

James River Equipment Company, a John Deere dealership with local locations, submitted the lowest, qualifying bid at $311,285. Shenandoah County limited the bidding to dealers that would sell a John Deere 850k Crawler Dozer with certain equipment specifications.

The Board of Supervisors last week approved a request by Landfill Operations Manager Brad Dellinger to buy the dozer from the dealership through a lease-purchase program. The county plans to pay for the vehicle over five years at an interest rate of 1.68 percent. With interest, the county will spend approximately $355,000 for the dozer. The county’s current budget includes $68,782 to cover the first annual payment. The board did not choose the other option to take $242,503 from savings to buy the vehicle outright.

The county also received bids of $277,000 from Lawrence Equipment in Cloverdale and $0 from Carter Machine Company in Fishersville. Both bids were disqualified because Lawrence sells Case equipment and Carter is a Caterpillar dealership. An employee in sales at Lawrence said Wednesday the dealership would not offer a price because the company doesn’t sell John Deere equipment.

Supervisor Cindy Bailey told the board she and other residents have concerns about the process and the fact the county received only one qualifying bid.

“I would like to know why this particular piece of equipment — and I don’t care who makes it — the bulldozer that you need for the landfill was pinpointed only to John Deere,” Bailey said. “It was so specific to John Deere and no other substitutes would be even looked at.”

Dellinger responded by telling the board that he intended to replace a working John Deere bulldozer with a similar brand and model. Dellinger said he has never used an 850k Caterpillar dozer at the landfill. He has run other Caterpillar dozers. Caterpillar would be the more expensive of the three manufacturers discussed, with Case being the least costly, Dellinger said.

The landfill manager said no landfills that he knows of use Case bulldozers.

“It’s either Cat or John Deere — your two biggest names when you come to landfills because the environment is so rough, dirty, dusty,” Dellinger said.

In response to a question from Bailey, Dellinger said the Page County landfill uses Caterpillar equipment and the Rockingham County/Harrisonburg facility switched from John Deere to Caterpillar. Dellinger pointed out that his dealers for John Deere and Caterpillar are nearby.

“Even if we stayed with John Deere, why didn’t we get three different dealerships to give us prices on it and make it competitive that way,” Bailey said. “I’ve had people ask that question. You have to understand that this is taxpayer money.”

Assistant County Administrator Evan Vass said any John Deere dealer could have submitted bids regardless of location.

Bailey reiterated her questioning over who was involved in the creation of invitations to bid and the specifications for the type of vehicle sought by the county. At a previous meeting, County Attorney J. Jay Litten, in response to Bailey’s question, said it was legal for a potential bidder to help create the specifications as long as that dealer or company wasn’t paid to provide the service.

Virginia code states that no one who, for compensation, prepares an invitation to bid on behalf of a public body shall submit a bid for that procurement or any portion thereof or disclose to any bidder or offeror information concerning the procurement that is not available to the public. State code allows a public body to let such person submit a bid if the body finds that excluding the person would limit the number of potential qualified bidders.

“I think it’s a conflict of interest when you have the dealer, the representative, come in, write the specs and then he bids on it and gets the bid,” Bailey said.

Dellinger said he put the bid specifications together and the representative “just typed them up.” Bailey said this was not the same as if Dellinger had told the representative what he wanted in the bid package.

At the work session, Chairman David Ferguson cited Dellinger’s nine years of experience at the landfill as a reason to support the request for the John Deere. Supervisor Steve Baker also voiced support for the landfill official’s request for the John Deere.

“The people who operate that each and every day and the ones that work on it, I trust their opinion,” Baker said. “I don’t want to go in and sort of micromanage or dispute what their thoughts are.”

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or