RICHMOND, VA - An appeals board has upheld a Richmond, Va., decision to award a $6 million contract for new garbage trucks to a Georgia company but has raised concerns about the city's bid process.

The board ruled that Procurement Director Cheryl D. Wright was justified in awarding the contract to McNeilus Cos. in the spring, primarily because the competing company did not meet the city's requirement for a nearby maintenance facility to service the trucks, reports the Richmond Times Dispatch.

However, the board also said that the city's two previous bid requests, withdrawn in favor of one with more restrictive requirements, "create an impression, correctly or incorrectly, that the city was trying to insure that McNeilus would be the successful bidder."

Mid-Atlantic Waste Systems, based in Chesapeake, contends that the city procurement process was biased toward McNeilus by setting specifications for the garbage trucks that only the Georgia company could meet. The company also claimed that Richmond misinterpreted the maintenance costs submitted by McNeilus, but the review board dismissed that claim as unfounded.

Kevin McGee, sales manager for Mid-Atlantic, said that his company would appeal the decision to Richmond Circuit Court.

The board, consisting of procurement officials from the state and Chesterfield and Henrico counties, expressed reservations about the way Richmond handled the procurement process for buying 25 new garbage trucks that will run on compressed natural gas.

Chairman Clarence Wilson said in the five-page decision that the history of the review process "would make the Review Board uncomfortable" if the difference in truck specifications were the only reason for Richmond's decision to aware the contract to McNeilus.

Instead, the board based its decision primarily on Mid-Atlantic's failure to meet the bidding requirement that it provide a maintenance facility for the trucks within 30 miles of the city's fleet maintenance center.

The board also said the city should have reviewed the equipment specifications submitted by Mid-Atlantic to determine whether they were equal to those of the McNeilus trucks. "However, there is no evidence that the city made this effort, even though Mid-Atlantic provided the necessary specifications," the board found.

Wilson said the board found no evidence of fraud or corruption by the city or any city employee, or that any state law or city ordinance had been violated in the procurement process, according to the Richmond Times Dispatch.