The Irvine City Council now wants to pull out of a contract for electric vehicle charging stations in the Great Park that was awarded under very unusual circumstances back in December 2021.
Casco Construction was awarded a contract to install, maintain and operate up to 277 vehicle charging stations in five large parking lots at the Great Park, despite the fact that two other firms had been recommended by City staff following a formal bid process.
In making the motion to ignore City staff’s recommendation and award the multi-million-dollar contract to Casco, Councilmembers Mike Carroll and Tammy Kim pointed to Casco’s promise that the City would receive $2 million annually in revenue — much more than promised by any other bidder. Kim said that Casco and its proposed equipment supplier, Noodoe, were both based in Irvine so the chargers would be made here, boosting Irvine manufacturing jobs. She amended the motion to require that Noodoe be the supplier. (Then-Councilmember Anthony Kuo provided the third vote.)
Mayor Farrah Khan and Councilmember Larry Agran both voted against the deal, questioning why the Council was ignoring City staff’s recommendation. Agran urged the Council to follow Irvine’s formal bidding process.
After the vote, Agran said: “Out of the blue, two Councilmembers said they wanted to award a multi-million-dollar contract to a bidder that City staff did not recommend and was much farther down the list. What does that say to businesses that followed protocol and were chosen by City staff?”
More than a year after the contract with Casco was pushed through, the charging stations have yet to be installed. According to City Manager Oliver Chi, the $2 million revenue promised by Casco has now been revised down to just 10% of that amount — if, in fact, there is any revenue at all. And Irvine has actually lost jobs. The same month that Councilmember Kim was promising a boon in local jobs, Taiwan-based Noodoe was closing up shop in Irvine and moving its U.S. operations to Houston, laying off Irvine employees. And, it turns out that the chargers were never going to be manufactured here in Irvine, or even the U.S., but in Taiwan.
Now, the Council is reviewing the status of the Casco contract. During a February 28th meeting, City Manager Chi confirmed the drastically reduced revenue estimate and said that Casco would begin installing a first phase of 166 chargers in March, as soon as Southern California Edison (SCE) completes installation of the necessary electric lines to the site.
Councilmember Carroll commented that he backed the contract originally “based on the available facts and information at the time. I feel like those facts have moved.”
While Councilmember Kim did not say much, Carroll asked about getting out of the contract. Chi said that the City could extract itself from the contract but “there would be damages that would have to be paid, given work that’s been done to date” by Casco and SCE.
After a lengthy discussion, the Council voted to not proceed beyond the initial first phase — 166 chargers. Moreover, the Council directed the City Attorney to report on Irvine’s rights and obligations under the contract regarding the first phase.
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