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Letter: Edelson Discusses Adherence to Bidding and Procurement Policy

Southbury First Selectman Ed Edelson submits letter to the editor.

Editor,

I would like to address some of the commentary regarding my administration’s position on the Town’s Procurement Policy. First, we are committed to implementing the Procurement Policy, which went through significant review and revisions by the Boards of Finance and Selectmen over the past two years. Second, the people responsible for developing the policy understood that there are many factors besides price in implementing cost-effective procurement. The most recent example of the purchase of the Over-The-Fence Mower and Tractor adhered to this policy.

The policy states that “Items purchased from the State of Connecticut’s official competitive bid list…are exempt from the requirements established by this policy.” This exemption was made a part of the policy after careful review and analysis of the state bidding process by the Board of Finance to reduce the burden of competitive bidding by the Town while still obtaining the best price possible. The State Bid List is created through a competitive bid process.  It was understood that the Town would be duplicating what the State had already done but with lower purchasing power. The question we ask is whether or not we believe that the item meets our needs and is the best value.  In some cases, the requirements are not exactly the same. For example, fuel on the State Bid List might be cheaper but it is priced with delivery in the Hartford region. To move it to Southbury, would incur additional transportation costs that would make this low bid price more expensive to us.

In this case, a similar mower was purchased six years ago from the State Bid List and the town was pleased with the quality. This mower is not the run-of-the-mill lawnmower that most of us use in our backyards and cannot be purchased from our local hardware store. In fact, the mower on CT’s bid list comes from a supplier in Massachusetts. The unique feature of this mower is that it folds up to equal the width of the tractor, facilitating transport from location to location. This feature is only offered by one manufacturer and the company on the State Bid List is the only supplier of this mower for the entire state of CT. Given this, we concluded that using the State Bid List made good sense in providing a quality mower that had been competitively bid.

At the Board of Selectmen meeting two concerns were raised: one was that we had time before the mowing season so let’s use this to make more inquiries; the other was that it would not take much time to make a few phone inquiries. The first item assumes that these mowers are readily available; this is not the case. The lead time is such that we need to order now so we are ready for the mowing season. The second would be a violation of the procurement policy. If a phone call resulted in someone saying that they could provide a lower cost, per the procurement policy, we could not act upon it without going through the competitive bid process. This, however, runs counter to the idea of not duplicating the State bid process.

Competitive bidding by the town is an important tool in procurement, but as I have found in my private sector experience and as we have been advised by the Connecticut Council of Municipalities, it is not always the best approach.

Those of us in the business of getting things done in a timely and efficient manner know that sometimes what looks like a simple exercise from the outside may not be so, in fact.

A copy of the latest Procurement/Bidding Policy, adopted by the Board of Selectmen on November 20, 2011 is available on the Town website or by clicking here.

We are committed to adhering to this bidding policy and, in the process, ensuring that taxpayers’ money is spent prudently and productively.

Signed,

Ed Edelson
Southbury First Selectman

Jon Norris February 10, 2012 at 09:13 PM
New boss, same as the old boss? I’m beginning to wonder. Southbury's Procurement Policy is seven pages long. But the policy's objective (the preamble) is to get the best value for the taxpayer while still ensuring transparency and efficiency. First Selectman Edelson defends his decision to NOT seek other bids/quotes for a brand new 117 thousand dollar tractor and mower because he followed the letter of the policy. Southbury collects over 60 million dollars in taxes. Of that 70% goes to Region 15. Of the remaining 18 million, 70% goes to salaries of town employees. Of the remaining five or six million. a portion goes to a variety of fixed costs (i.e. debt service, insurance.) Whatever is left might be characterized as discretionary. The Boards of Finance and Selectman have spent much time wrangling over whether to pay for the annual Celebration of Southbury ($10,000) and whether to save a few hundred dollars by making double-sided copies (which, in fact, they decided to do.) -continued -
Jon Norris February 10, 2012 at 09:15 PM
-continued- But the First Selectman can advocate spending a quarter of a million dollars without any oversight? It's outrageous. It's not his money.
carol renza February 10, 2012 at 11:15 PM
The town would have the option of either formally going out to bid or just making the purchase at the lower price if they found a lower price which would simply require a vote of the Board. If time is of the essence, this purchase and investigation could have and should have been done months ago, phone calls to a supplier or two could have been made before the proposal was brought before the Board. This is not an unreasonable expectation in light of the fact, as Mr. Norris points out, 'the policy's objective (the preamble) is to get the best value for the taxpayer while still ensuring transparency and efficiency.' It behooves Mr. Edelson to either delegate or do some homework himself before making presentations to the Board on high cost purchases, to show the taxpayer that an effort was made to solicit other prices ... same as in the recent matter of the 'one bid' 75' bucket', and as in the case of several mowers purchased last year under Davis when it was known early they were needed and no bids went out because it was the 11th hour and they were needed. Since when is competitive bidding considered a 'burden' ??? Other towns do it without a problem because it is their duty to watch the bottom line.It appears the bottom line as regards bids is ONLY a problem inherent in the operation of the Town of Southbury. -continued-
carol renza February 10, 2012 at 11:29 PM
Obviously, such a 'burden' that with the exception of the storm debris removal, bids placed on the website as was supposed to be done is ignored. There is a place View the results of recent bids for Public Works. The website indicates a "Bid Award List... Once a bid has been awarded you can view the information here." (List of projects, dates awarded, bid recipients and award amounts) This category totally blank as it was during the past administration. How can you consider 'bidding' a burden, when there is NOTHING on the town website to indicate that bidding is excessive??? No one can pick up the phone call and fax a supplier for a simple bid with all those people in town hall collecting our tax dollars ??? Not rocket science... This is a cop-out. A leader from another town told me that towns generally use the state bid as a baseline price before going out to bid . I suggest that perhaps Mr. Edelson needs to schedule meetings with Selectmen from other towns who purchase to reflect the bottom line instead of being advised by the same people who sat on their hands for years voting hand in hand with Davis, while Southbury became embroiled in the bid fiasco , and task his employees with minding the bottom line and that excuses of 'one bid' will no longer be tolerated. That is what we elected him to do.
carol renza February 10, 2012 at 11:33 PM
No one remotely suggests that the 'lowest bid' be accepted in all cases - as a former Assistant Purchasing Agent, I am well aware of that. However, the bid process is to determine if the price we accept is even in the ballpark! We don't even have a clue with these 'one bid' wonders sanctioned by those on the Board who are still clueless.
Gary February 11, 2012 at 02:53 PM
To assume that just because this vendor is on a "state list" which somehow guarantee's the lowest price? With the internet and a couple phone calls what would it take to get a couple of quotes... two hours perhaps? If I'm spending $100. on a purchase I make sure I do my homework, let alone a $117,000 item.
Long Time Resident February 12, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Hiring issues too? I really thought this was a bad joke until I read the article. The comment in the paper under the article is priceless. http://www.rep-am.com/articles/2012/02/12/news/local/619815.txt#blogcomments Procurement issues. Not just one Mr. Edelson, but two. No one forgets the $150,000 bucket truck that did NOT go out to bid at all which was allowed in December. Now this purchase. Do you forget all the articles and stories on how the highway department and treasurers office did what they wanted, when they wanted and it was allowed by the person we didn't re-elect? Now, we get this purchase and you defend the fact that no one has, as RU says above done their "homework". The answer to Landmons question at the meeting by Mr. Crowe should have been, "we contacted several vendors, A, B and C and the state bid price is the lowest for what we need"...End of discussion, move on. It is incumbent upon you to ensure your department heads give you and the board all the factual information needed to make a reasonable, professional and prudent decision in the best interests of the taxpayer. We elected you because we thought you would be sensitive to the needs and concerns of the taxpayers. Arrogance isn't going to get you reelected, no matter how many pictures you take and post on social networking sites! Do you think the voters who elected you were kidding when they say they wanted change from the same old, same old?
carol renza February 13, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Here is part of the comment posted by "Southbury incompetence," referred to above... "...Ed is either misinformed or lying. The on call driver position HAS BEEN ADVERTISED in the past!!!! The Voices reported that Ms. Gesek recommended Davis be hired...this is right in line with hiring her friend from Monroe to be in charge of the Senior center, then hiring the barber the 2 women from Monroe use personally, now she hires Davis. Mr. Edelson, you are in charge now. No more blaming the Department Heads who you heard so much negativity about during your campaign. They can't be trusted and you must manage them or they run amok. It is ironic though, how does one go through life as a liquor store counter hump, get annointed first selectman and leave in embarassment and disgrace and end up as Southbury's own Ralph Cramden? Karma is a bi... " One must wonder if Mr. Edelon was not paying attention to the 'friends and family' hiring plan which Davis was criticized for. It was brought up many times that jobs should be advertised in the community and the people who pay the bills should have a fair shot at jobs - not just town hall insiders. Knowing this, why did he sign off on this hire without advertising the job? No one begrudges Davis the position - but he got it on insider's knowledge and no one in the communith had a chance to apply. .
carol renza February 13, 2012 at 01:11 AM
As far as that $157,000 bucket which Crowe stated at a BOS we only received 'one bid' for. After stating to me he doesn't want to 'micromanage' his department heads, Edelson informed me that Crowe contacted '3 or 4 suppliers' ... which is it - 3??? 4??? If he investigated, he would have a firm number along with existing records identifiing suppliers contacted along with specs they were provided. There is one right in Bridgeport, in fact. I requested under FOI dates, times and identities of those suppliers and specifications they were sent. It's called MANAGEMENT of department heads. Not micromanagement, but management. I find it very difficult to comprehend that in this economy, manufacturers and their sales people would totally ignore request for quotations if we provide them with specs, so that we are left with only 'one bid' to present to the BOS.
Gary February 13, 2012 at 03:23 AM
Dear Ed, What's the manufacturer and model number of this $117,000 "over the fence" mower? If your employee's are too busy to make a few phone calls to save our tax dollars, let us do your office's job and look into the matter. Davis is hired at the senior center... Really? Was this job even posted?
Greg Kuehn February 15, 2012 at 06:38 PM
My biggest concern with Ed's letter is a suggestion that there is any kind of "burden" to conduct a bidding process. If there is some kind of undue burden, it would be prudent to explain how that is. At the moment, I can't help but feel where one would call it a burden, another would call it a primary responsibility. Maybe that concern could be clarified? I think it's a terrible mistake to start this term with what appears to be a lackluster approach to conserving taxpayer money. It's no surprise that this would be a sensitive issue. Make the decision and effort to get the bidding done and settle the issue once and for all.

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