Acadia National Park concessioner calls bid evaluation a ‘sham,’ will pursue protest in federal court

People eat outside the Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island in July 2010.
People eat outside the Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island in July 2010. Buy Photo
Posted Jan. 20, 2014, at 6:07 p.m.

BAR HARBOR, Maine — Calling the bid evaluation process a “sham,” a local firm that lost the Acadia National Park concessions contract last fall, after decades of providing retail and food services in the park, is appealing the decision in federal claims court.

Acadia Corp., the private company that operated the Jordan Pond House restaurant as well as gift shops at Thunder Hole and the Cadillac Mountain summit, claims in the appeal that the National Park Service “committed serious errors, acted arbitrarily, capriciously and not in accordance with the law” when it awarded a 10-year contract to Dawnland LLC that is expected to generate a total of approximately $60 million in gross revenues.

Dawnland is a subsidiary of Santa Fe, N.M.-based Ortega National Parks LLC, which holds concessions contracts at other NPS properties in the western U.S. and owns and operates other retail businesses in California, New Mexico and New York.

In a statement released Monday, Acadia Corp. said the panel that evaluated bids for the contract gave Dawnland a high score based upon extensive promises Dawnland made that later were rejected by other National Park Service officials because the promises or commitments were “either infeasible, of no benefit to the government, or unenforceable.”

For example, Dawnland listed 26 things it would do to address parking and congestion at the Jordan Pond House, but the draft contract NPS subsequently offered to Dawnland included only two of those commitments as contract requirements, according to Acadia Corp. officials.

The local firm claims that the park service’s “serious errors and arbitrary conduct” caused prejudice to Acadia Corp.’s bid and that if not for those errors, Acadia Corp. “would have had a substantial chance to [be] awarded the contract at issue.”

Acadia Corp. filed the bid protest in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims court in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 20, according to Acadia Corp. officials. Oral arguments are expected to be heard in court on Feb. 14, they said.

Attempts Monday to contact officials with the regional National Park Service office in Philadelphia, which oversaw the contract award process, and representatives of Dawnland LLC were unsuccessful.

Acadia Corp. claims in its appeal that the bid evaluation panel was unaware of certain requirements of the Acadia concessions prospectus and of practical limitations about what kind of foods are available or legal in Maine. NPS officials have declined to name the members of the NPS panel, other than to say that none of them work at Acadia National Park.

According to the Bar Harbor company, Dawnland proposed “to serve roe from a threatened or endangered fish” at the Jordan Pond House and to obtain a certain type of food from local or regional producers, even though that food is “not available locally or regionally.”

“In other words, Dawnland simply asserted what it thought would look good without finding [out] if it was possible,” Acadia Corp.’s attorneys wrote in the appeal. “And the panel’s evaluation was so superficial that it accepted all of these assertions without question, even though the record demonstrated they were invalid.”

What type of fish or other food was offered in Dawnland’s bid has not been disclosed because much of the information in the bids and subsequent draft contract are considered proprietary by the park service. According to Acadia Corp., its attorneys have access to all the information in the documents but are prohibited from sharing proprietary information with Acadia Corp. officials or with the public.

David Woodside, president of Acadia Corp., said Monday that his company’s contract with the park expired Dec. 31. He said his firm has moved out of the park buildings it occupied for decades but that it continues to operate its own retail shops in downtown Bar Harbor. He said Acadia Corp.’s attorney is Kevin Garden of Alexandria, Va., who specializes in federal contracts and has experience with NPS concessions contract issues.

Woodside said NPS and Dawnland signed the national park concessions contract at the end of December. A mandatory 60-day contract review process by Congress began when the contract was signed, he said, which means the review process is set to expire at the end of February. The new contract with Dawnland is expected to go into effect in March, he said.

Members of Maine’s congressional delegation have raised concerns about the contract award process.

Kevin Kelley, spokesman for Sen. Susan Collins, indicated Monday in an email that the park service has yet to respond to a letter that she and Sen. Angus King jointly sent to the park service last November. Kelley declined to comment on Acadia Corp’s legal appeal.

Rep. Mike Michaud said Monday in a statement that he hopes the contract award process will get a thorough review in Congress.

“My office is watching the Acadia Corporation’s appeal with interest,” Michaud wrote. “It is my hope that the House Natural Resources Committee will consider these important concerns as part of a thorough review of the proposed contract and overall National Park Service contracting policies.”

 

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