BY JIM DOOLEY

The state public housing agency must seek competitive bids before awarding a $798,000 contract for installation of “instant” hot water heaters at Mayor Wright Homes, chief procurement officer Aaron Fujioka said today.

The Hawaii Public Housing Authority asked twice this week for permission to award a sole source contract to The Gas Company for the work.

Fujioka denied the requests but today said HPHA would be allowed an “abbreviated and expedited” contract award process if it seeks price quotes from competing companies.

“There are dozens of vendors already signed up in the category for water heaters on HePS (the Hawaii Electronic Procurement System),” Fujioka wrote. Allowing those companies to offer price quotes “will allow for a broad based, fair and open competition for all prospective contractors/vendors,” Fujioka told HPHA.

The contract solicitation must be open for at least three days, Fujioka said.

HPHA’s first attempt to award a non-bid contract was classified as an “emergency procurement” by HPHA but was rejected by Fujioka Wednesday.

“The emergency procurement process is not to be used to rectify a situation that was preventable and caused by bad management,” Fujioka said.

HPHA asked again yesterday to be exempted from competitive bidding and was rebuffed by Fujioka.

“There is no information on whether other prospective vendors were contacted to justify that this exemption would be the most advantageous to the State,” Fujioka wrote.

“Potential vendors should be afforded the opportunity to provide a price quotation for the required equipment and services,” said Fujioka.

That would promote “open broad-based competition, thus assuring the State a fair price,” the procurement officer said.

Some residents at Mayor Wright Homes have been without hot water for extended periods of time and have staged public protests and threatened lawsuits over the matter.

HPHA is designing a permanent overhaul of the existing solar water heating system at the 35-building public housing project in Honolulu.

For a short-term fix, HPHA wants to install as many as 57 “tankless instant hot water” systems at Mayor Wright at a cost of $14,000 per system. The total cost would be $798,000, according to HPHA.

Once the new solar system is installed, the tankless water heaters will serve as back-up equipment, according to HPHA.

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Jim Dooley joined the Hawaii Reporter staff as an investigative reporter in October 2010. Before that, he has worked as a print and television reporter in Hawaii since 1973, beginning as a wire service reporter with United Press International. He joined Honolulu Advertiser in 1974, working as general assignment and City Hall reporter until 1978. In 1978, he moved to full-time investigative reporting in for The Advertiser; he joined KITV news in 1996 as investigative reporter. Jim returned to Advertiser 2001, working as investigative reporter and court reporter until 2010. Reach him at Jim@hawaiireporter.com