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County looks for an update to bid process

Monday, April 14, 2014 - Updated: 10:05 AM


FONDA -- A new policy governing the way purchases are made by Montgomery County officials will be presented to the Education-Government Comm-ittee Tuesday for review and approval.

Chairman Ryan Weitz said the change in the procurement policy was necessary to reflect the change in county government from a board of supervisors to a legislature, as well as create a document that was clear and consistent.

"This is a policy that is used every day and is crucial to the functioning of our county government," Weitz said. "We have been working on it for four months. It will go out to the legislature for review and hopefully it will go to the full board at the end of the month."

The procurement policy governs purchases made for general items, public works contracts and professional services such as insurance and dental and medical care at the county jail, he said.

The only thing required by General Municipal Law is that any purchases over $20,000 go out for a competitive bid. For public works contracts, anything over $35,000 requires a bid.

"Each county is required to have a policy on how it obtains goods and services in terms of awarding bids," county attorney Douglas Landon said. "The present policy is outdated. All the authority rests with the board of supervisors, which no longer exists."

Weitz, Landon and Montgom-ery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort met last week to go through the existing policy and make the necessary changes. Weitz said the new policy is modeled after Orange County, which has the same form of government.

"We scrapped Montgomery County's policy and used Orange County's procurement policy as a frame because we found it to be more understandable so there won't be any questions," Weitz said. "We added and changed sections using what we thought was good about the Montgomery County policy and that yielded the end result in what we have today."

Weitz said that the biggest change to the policy is there are separate parts for purchase contracts, professional services and public works. The old policy had main sections for non-bid procurements, procurements exempt from competitive bidding and certain procurements that were not subject to competitive bidding. There was a brief section on professional services.

The new policy also includes written sections of state law rather than references and it details each type of purchase.

For example it goes into WICKS law requirements, which requires separate plumbing, heating/ventilation/air conditioning and electrical contracts if construction projects exceed a certain amount.

"It's much more thorough than our existing one," Weitz said. "That is why we used Orange County, because it incorporated what we hadn't in the past. We went through and adapted it to fit Montgomery County."

Landon said the new policy will not only set forth how purchases are to be made but who has the authority to make them within set dollar limits.

Ossenfort said that since procurement policy has to follow state law, some things could not change, such as awarding contracts to the lowest bidder.

"The procurement policy is responding more to the change in the structure. Where the board of supervisors were in the decision making process, its now the executive," he said.

Weitz said the procurement policy also coincides with the county charter, which is also under review to clarify who the delineation of powers between the legislature and the county executive.

For example, there isn't a parameter in the charter about a threshold for contracts that can be signed by Ossenfort without first obtaining legislative approval. This issue was the topic at a January Committee of the Whole meeting and legislators went back and forth on whether it was appropriate.

A resolution to adopt the procurement policy is on the agenda for Tuesday's Education-Government Committee meeting.


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