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.
Southbury First Selectman