Council Backs Bid Process

In Face of Criticism, No Move to Re-Bid Detention Center Roof

WINNSBORO – Responding Monday night to concerns voiced by the public, County Council briefly addressed procurement – for the assessment of the Detention Center roof as well as for the recent purchase of a piece of heavy equipment – but ultimately took no action on reconsidering the purchases.

Beth Jenkins, addressing Council during the second public comment portion of the meeting, asked Council to reconsider the bid for the Detention Center roof.

“I think that you were misled,” Jenkins said. “I don’t think you got the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth as far as the scope of work for the bids, the scope of work, the prices and what all it entailed. This procurement process was put in place for a process. It was not followed. I think we need to un-ring that bell and follow it.”

Randy Bright, also speaking during the second public comment segment, agreed, adding that the County should be putting out bids for more of its purchased goods and services.

“The process was not done right,” Bright said. “Our procurement process still seems to be wanting. I don’t see any bids on legal services, which are extremely expensive. I don’t see any bids on fuel, $80,000 last month. Fuel should be going way down. Consulting. I don’t see any bids on consulting. And I don’t see anything for auditing.”

During County Council time, Walter Larry Stewart (District 3) asked Milton Pope, Interim County Administrator, if the procurement process had been followed to the letter. Stewart also asked Pope and Council if the County should re-bid the roof assessment. When he received no answer, Billy Smith (District 7) followed with the same question.

“We do feel we were consistent with what is in the code to be able to do that,” Pope said after reviewing for Council how the process had transpired. “It was totally transparent from the committee process, the process that went to the physical council.”

Pope said the assessment could be re-solicited, if Council desired, or could be folded into the entire project, to include the replacement of the roof, which would come in the 2015-2016 budget. That process, Pope said, would require sealed bids since it would exceed the $25,000 outlined in the procurement manual (see “Roofing bids open old wounds” in our April 10 edition).

Marion Robinson (District 5), a member of the Administration and Finance Committee that recommended the assessment to Council, said questions about how the solicitations went out might be leading the County down an untenable road.

“Are we saying we cannot do anything without going out for sealed bids?” Robinson asked. “I mean, that is not the way companies operate. They have vendors’ lists that are approved. They may be approved for a year or two years, but no company . . . or anybody can go out on sealed bids for everything they have done. I just wonder if that’s what we’re getting towards, because I’m thinking it’s the wrong thing to do.”

One criticism of the roof assessment process was that it was not advertised either in a local newspaper or on the County’s website, as required by the manual for projects or purchases over $10,000. Although Pope and Chairwoman Carolyn Robinson (District 2) confirmed with The Voice last week that the project was not advertised, Councilman Dan Ruff (District 1) asked again Monday night if it had been.

“No,” Carolyn Robinson said. “When you solicit, you go to that group of people (the approved vendors list) and solicit. But that’s only for small kinds of money. It’s not for big jobs like $100,000 and over, which to me always have to be sealed bids.”

The procurement manual, however, puts the threshold for sealed bids at $25,000. The County budgeted $35,000 for the assessment, and on March 23 approved the assessment for “up to $35,000.” The winning bid, from Goodwyn Mills & Cawood, was for $20,000.

“Since this was the engineering services, we knew – we didn’t even think it would be $25,000 in any way, shape or form,” Marion Robinson said Monday night. “In fact, it was $20,000 on one of them. So I’m real confused as to what we would do different going out to get engineering services to do the job.”

Council also took some heat from Allen Gantt on their March 23 purchase of a $123,000 track hoe for the solid waste department.

“Ya’ll missed a perfect opportunity last Council meeting to show some restraint,” Gantt said. “Mr. Stewart questioned the purchase of the excavator for the Airport Road landfill and recycling center (see “County revisits bylaws,” in our March 27 edition). It was right there on the table and teed up for you guys to at least show some restraint on spending our County money and it wasn’t done. Additional questions should have been asked. What are they going to use it for? Why do they need it? I know it’s a want, but is it a need?

“If the answer is we don’t own an excavator, then the acquisition is reasonable; but to just blindly vote on it based on Mr. Pope’s recommendation based off somebody else’s recommendation doesn’t seem like it’s very good use of the County’s money,” Gantt said.

Stewart voted against the purchase on March 23.

Pope said Monday night that the track hoe had also gone through the committee process and that it was indeed a needed piece of equipment.

“I didn’t want the citizens to feel as though the committee was just going on what I suggested,” Pope said. “There was some documentation and a request of action stating the needs of the piece of equipment.”

 

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