Archive for Thursday, January 10, 2008

Deviating from bid process requires limits

January 10, 2008

Last month, the De Soto City Council awarded a contract to clear brush and do preliminary grading for the new riverfront park in the West Bottoms to a local contractor. What may have raised eyebrows was that the bid for the local contractor was $65,000 more than low bid of $75,000 from a Lawrence company.

The council took the action because the contractor was one of several local constructions contractors who volunteered help with the construction of the boat ramp last year at the site of the future park.

Contractors contributed to the boat ramp effort with no expectation they would be rewarded for construction of the future park, which at that time was not even contemplated. They volunteered labor, machinery and expertise with the best of motives - a sincere desire to be part of an effort to improve the community.

It was not an insignificant contribution. Anyone driving by the site saw the contractors' union employees working with expensive machinery in the West Bottoms much of last winter and early spring. It is estimated their contribution to the boat ramp project was worth at least $140,000.

There are good reasons to award contracts to local businesses. They can be expected to take an extra measure of pride in doing the job right and the money the city spends stays local.

But there is also good reason to stay true to the bid process. It affords protection to city staff and elected officials from charges of cronyism and, of course, gives taxpayers the most for their money.

One got the impression that council members had to swallow hard before approving the bid to the local contractor because of the $65,000 difference.

We would suggest that if in the future the council would like to consider rewarding local contractors for whatever commendable reason, it do so only if the local bid doesn't exceed a certain percentage of low bid received. We would suggest 20 percent would be more than fair for what we would hope is a rare procedure.

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