City bid process raises concerns

Attorney assures council that decisions made are on solid legal ground

City bid procedures were called into question at Tuesday night's Craig City Council meeting, with several members characterizing the process as being "willy-nilly."

Council members were assured the decisions they made regarding requests to waive the bid process in one instance, to allow for an informal bid in another and to accept a bid that was not the lowest in a third were legally sound.

The petitions came about a month after council members were told city ordinances didn't allow them to give preference to local bidders if their prices were within a certain percent of the lowest bidder.

Parks and Recreation Department Director Dave Pike asked the council to waive the bid process for the purchase of sprinkler system parts.

Grand Junction Pipe is offering a 17-percent discount off all orders above $3,000 through the month of April and offered to extend the special to the city of Craig to May 1, allowing time for council approval.

The discount is in addition to the 40 percent off the wholesaler usually provides the city.

Pike anticipates spending around $8,000 on materials for a sprinkler system in North Park and other miscellaneous parts.

"I think we can save some money if we go through Grand Junction Pipe," Pike said.

Grand Junction Pipe is traditionally the lowest bidder when the city does request bids, he said.

Councilor Bill Johnston asked what allowances city ordinances made for this kind of situation.

According to City Attorney Sherman Romney, city ordinances allow an informal bid process if market conditions or special circumstances necessitated informal bidding procedures be used.

"It's pretty much a catch all," he said. "It's certainly a council decision if you think the advantages to the city outweigh the potential political risk by not following existing procedures."

The council voted unanimously to allow Pike to purchase materials from Grand Junction Pipe.

The request to use informal bid procedures to purchase process analytical equipment for the water department was also approved unanimously, the council using a "sole sourcing" loophole in the ordinance as justification.

Sole sourcing allows the city to waive the bid process if certain equipment can only be purchased from a single vendor or if it is necessary to use parts from a specific vendor for compatibility.

"We just want to make sure whatever we get is compatible with what we already have," Public Works Director Bill Earley said.

According to water plant supervisor Mark Sollenberger, the department has already purchased the process type equipment used at the plant from the two vendors in question, making standardization important. Council members agreed.

The two companies, Hach Co. and Municipal Treatment Equipment Inc., are the manufacturers and local distributors of the equipment. They are both located in Colorado, Sollenberger said, and can service the equipment as well as repair parts quickly.

The low bid on design and engineering services for the Ridgeview Trail came in at $19,800, but it was recommended by city staff, and approved unanimously by the council, that the city award the bid to the Applegate Group for no more than $43,038.

Design Concepts submitted a bid of $26,559.

The two low bidders were unacceptable, Earley said, because one, Gordon Meyer, prepared the bid at the last minute and didn't account for certain portions of the project.

"I didn't feel he put in enough time in the proposal," Earley said. "I didn't feel he could do the job for $19,000."

Earley said he contacted Meyer, who admitted he put the proposal together in a rush the night before the deadline. According to Romney, a request for proposal differs from a bid slightly in that it's an evaluation of a company's strengths, not necessarily a straight-across comparison.

"It is a bid, but it's more of a subjective analysis," he said.

Design Concepts was thrown out of consideration, Earley said, because they didn't have a licensed professional engineer on staff, something the Colorado Department of Transportation requires on projects it funds.

The Ridgeview Trail will extend from Columbine Apartments west of Craig to Finley Lane. The trail will cross a small stream and several ditches, requiring the services of an engineer, Pike said.

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