Glendale to pick Christmas light company in Thursday meeting

This 2018 photo shows the Christmas lights display, put up by Mesa-based Christmas Light Decorators, in downtown Glendale for the Glendale Glitters holiday lights event. In recent years, the light display has featured 1.6 million bulbs across 16 blocks. Scottsdale-based Custom Holiday Lights challenged CLD to take over the contract for the event, but city staff is recommending City Council grant the contract to CLD, which has been hired for the event for the past 19 years. Custom complained about the city’s process and now Council is holding an emergency meeting Thursday to review staff’s process and make a final decision on which company to hire.

A Scottsdale-based company wanted to be the new vendor of Christmas light for the annual Glendale Glitters light display, but the city staff decided to stick with its long-time vendor for the event. The challenging company is not going down without a fight, however, and Glendale City Council will make the final decision on which company to select in an emergency meeting at 1 p.m. Thursday in the Glendale Civic Center, 5750 W. Glenn Drive.

Watch the meeting live or later at the city’s YouTube channel or Facebook page.

Mesa-based Christmas Light Decorators, also known as Credit Management Group, LLC, has put up Christmas lights in downtown Glendale for the last 19 installations of Glendale Glitters. Scottsdale-based Custom Holiday Lights was the only other company to apply to take over the gig this year when Glendale’s contract with CLD ran up. However, CLD scored higher in Glendale’s request for proposal scoring system, and staff recommended City Council re-up with their long-time vendor.

The contract renewal will cost the city up to $250,000 a year, with options for the city manager to renew the contract annually up to an additional four years, which would take it through the 2024 holiday season. The Glendale Glitters lights are first lit the Friday after Thanksgiving and are turned on each night through the first Saturday in January, with weekend events throughout the holiday season. In recent years, the light display, put up by CLD, has featured 1.6 million bulbs across a 16 block area.

Custom filed a protest with staff over the process upset that staff had not called any of the references they listed, and that staff had calculated the companies’ final scores wrong because it did not assign the proper weights to categories. City staff rejected the protest, but Custom requested a hearing to appeal that rejection. The hearing was held in May, but Custom was again unsuccessful.

Throughout staff’s internal process, it argued that both not calling references and the erroneous weighting of the scores did not change the end result. Staff acknowledged it miscalculated the scores, but said once they were properly calculated, CLD still outperformed Custom. Staff said that the references category, which count for 20% of a company’s overall score, were only meant to evaluate past work. The RFP panel reviewed photos and documents about each companies’ past work but did not call references for either.

Staff seemed to think this matter had been put to bed, entering a Tuesday, June 23 meeting when Council was meant to vote on whether to grant the contract to CLD. However, this was clearly the first time most if not all on Council had heard of the disagreement.

Many on Council were skeptical if not openly critical of the way staff approached references.

“Without talking to people who had used these companies previously and relying only upon photographs does not seem to be appropriate to me,” said Yucca District Councilwoman Joyce Clark.

Two Custom managers, Chad Shimek and Aubree Denekamp, also complained that the city did not need to call CLD’s past work references because it had already worked with the city for two decades, an benefit Custom did not have in the process.

Custom scored 117 out of 200 on references while CLD scored a perfect 200. In total, CLD outscored Custom 951-759. Staff noted that even excluding the references section, CLD still would have outscored Custom.

Council tabled the item and request the city attorney’s office review the protest process and return the item to Council for further review. Council originally planned to hold the meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 11, their first meeting back from their July recess, despite warnings from City Manager Kevin Phelps that these companies need to start ordering their supplies in early August. He said such a delay would risk either pushing back the start of Glendale Glitters or increasing the cost because of rush fees.

So, Council instead interrupted its recess with an emergency meeting Thursday. This is the only item on the public meeting agenda.