Wednesday, May 15, 2013

4 Contracting Controversies from Around the Country

Illinois Opposition to Apprenticeship Legislation:  The Kendall County Board in Illinois voted  to oppose a proposed bill in the legislature that would amend the state's prevailing wage laws to require public works contractors to participate in apprenticeship programs for their workers.  House Bill 924 would require the use of apprentices on public work projects, even those funded only with local money.  The Board's letter of opposition states in part that 
"The result of the bill would be to exclude smaller contractors from bidding on public works projects.  This exclusion favors larger contractors, reduces competition, and drives up project costs for local taxpayers.  While the bill would reduce competition among contractors in many cities and counties, it is smaller communities that would be most impacted.  Smaller communities have fewer local contractors from which to accept bids."
Click here to read a news article about the County's opposition to the legislation.

New Jersey Specifications Challenged as Too Specific:  A New Jersey truck dealer is challenging the detailed specifications put out to bid by Monmouth County, alleging that the specifications limit the bidding pool. "They try to write a specification so they get the product they want, not necessarily always the best product," said John Schwartz.   The County has responded by noting that they specify "equipment based on its particular needs."  The dispute raises an important tension between specifications that meets a public agency's operational needs and specifications that limit competition and direct work to one or two businesses.  Click here to read a news article about the controversy.

California Wrestles with a Bid That is Too Low:  The City Council for the City of Coronado, California recently awarded the Glorietta Bay Pump Station project to the low bidder, despite concerns raised by a council member that the bid was too low and would result in change orders.  Council member Barbara Denny noted that the low bid of $49,100 was almost $100,000 lower than the second lowest bid of $145,398.  Seven bidders bid the project.  The Council discussion centered around what the "lowest responsible bidder" means and the authority of the city to issue change orders.  Click here to read the Council minutes from April 2, 2013.  If a low bidder with an unreasonably low bid insists they can perform the project for the bid price, must a public agency award the bid to them?  It's a good question, and one I'll address in a future blog posting.

Kentucky Violates Competitive Bidding Requirements:  The board for the Madisonville Public Library in Hopkins County, Kentucky awarded contracts for library renovations over their bid limit of $20,000 without publicly soliciting competitive bids as required.  The original project cost was apparently under the threshold, and when the estimated cost increased, the board didn't consider competitive bidding.  Click here for a news article about the situation.

Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog 
© 2013 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC

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