A military spouse owned small fitness business that was given the boot from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH), Hawaii in late May after a contract was instead awarded to different company has won a request for a fresh contracting process.
Rather than allow the original winner, non-military affiliated Boot Camp Hawaii, to move forward, officials with JBPHH have ruled that the "solicitation for Boot Camp Fitness on base was poorly written and the evaluation procedure was unfair," said Christina Landry, the military spouse whose contract proposal was rejected. "On the recommendations of both procurement experts and attorneys, JBPHH is calling a re-do."
Landry, a Navy spouse and veteran, owns Dumbell Fitness, a boot-camp style fitness class with babysitting services aimed at military spouses. Until May she held seven regular classes outdoors in the JBPHH housing areas with about 200 members and employed 20 other spouses. Between eight and 12 kids were watched by paid sitters during each class while their moms exercised. The 60 minute classes cost $110 per four weeks for three days a week, or $85 for two days a week and include babysitting — about $9 a class.
After she lost the contract bid she was forced to move her business off JBPHH to several community-based locations. That resulted in a "drastic decrease in participation," she said.
Now, because of the appeal, both she and others who competed in the original bid, including Boot Camp Hawaii, will be allowed to operate on base until the new contract is settled without giving MWR a cut of their earnings, according to base officials.
The new solicitation process and contract decision are expected to be settled by the end of the fiscal year in October, base officials said.
"We support, appreciate and promote health-and-fitness and quality-of-life programs here at the Joint Base, and we are dedicated to ensuring all programs are safe, legal, and meet appropriate standards," Navy Capt. Stan Keeve, JBPHH's commander said in a statement. "We are also committed to providing full and fair competition and getting the most value for service members and families."
Landry's business was kicked-off base after JBPHH's Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) officials said that because Landry was operating a business that conflicted with potential base owned services, she needed to compete for a contract with MWR, and give them a minimum 15 percent cut of her gross income. JBPHH's MWR does not offer its own boot camp style classes.
Since 15 percent gross was more than her total profit, Landry offered them 5 percent, or over 30 percent of her gains -- and lost the bid to Boot Camp Hawaii, which offered 25 percent .. edit: according to sources in our original story, for which Boot Camp Hawaii declined to comment.
And despite promises to Landry from base officials that because she offered childcare she would be a shoo-in to win, the contract solicitation did not even require childcare to be a part of the bid.
While base officials did not comment on what the errors they found in the solicitation and decisions were, sources said the deciding factor was likely the lack of childcare requirement in the solicitation.
Officials with the Defense Department's family policy office said that size of a cut to MWR is considered normal.
"There is no DoD guidance or a standard on what constitutes a fair rate of return; however, having the MWR organization retain a commission in the range of 15-30 percent of gross contract proceeds is reasonable and customary," Joy Crabaugh, a DoD family policy office spokesman said in a statement. "The MWR portion is used to help offset overhead costs and manage the contract, and there are any number of other variables that drive the rate based on the amount of support provided by MWR (facility, equipment, custodial, registration, advertising, etc.) for each contract."
Landry said the only service from MWR her group needs to operate is contract management and outdoor space, which is maintained by housing. She said one-size-fits-all rules for rates of return aren't fair because every business is not the same.
As for the new contract process, Landry said that while she is not overly confident that they will win this next round, she is approaching the process with a different perspective than the first time. While she originally believed that the base was looking to get the best service for spouses, she now believes their priority is income, she said.
"At least I know what the base is looking for in a contract, which is money," she said. "The last time I just wrote out the value. But now we'll write the contract with how it benefits base monetarily. We were led to believe that they cared about military spouses, and it was really just about money."
Photo courtesy of Dumbell Fitness.