Bibb commissioners may cut back on purchases requiring bids, quotes

When Bibb County officials were trying to rebuild Arrowhead Park for Thursday’s reopening ceremonies, they needed to buy sod to replace turf destroyed by a tornado.

But county procedures required that the purchase be advertised and bids formally opened, adding delay, Chief Administrative Officer Steve Layson said.

Tuesday, commissioners moved closer to making fewer purchases that require written quotes and bids, something Layson said will make Bibb County government run more efficiently and make it easier to do business with.

“Government works slow as it is, too slow to suit me, but this is bringing us more into line with similar counties,” he said.

Layson said the bidding requirements typically add three-to-four weeks to a project.

County purchasing agent Barry Smallwood suggested that the commission revise its standards.

Now, anything under $5,000 needs a written quote, and anything over that price needs to go out to bid.

Those standards would be raised dramatically: Items less than $2,500 could get verbal quotes, items from $2,500 to less than $25,000 would need written quotes, and purchases more than $25,000 would need to go out to bid.

Layson said the Arrowhead Park sod cost about $20,000. Under the proposal that commissioners reviewed Tuesday, the county purchasing agent could award contracts below $25,000, and the chief administrative officer could award projects under $50,000. More expensive awards would need to be approved by the finance committee. Now, the finance committee must approve purchases over $20,000. “Hopefully it will allow government to move just a little bit quicker,” Layson told commissioners.

Commissioners could approve the new regulations in two weeks.

In the case of the Arrowhead Park sod purchase, Smallwood sent out bid requests by e-mail, opening them about a week later. If the sod quotes had come in higher, closer to the original estimate, they would have had to be approved by the finance committee, which meets twice a month.

Under the proposal, Smallwood would have been authorized to solicit written quotes, though he could have also used a formal bid process.

Commissioner Elmo Richardson said the county already has good checks and balances to prevent abuses. Those same measures would remain if the higher limits are adopted.

Smallwood said that while Bibb County’s proposed increases are dramatically higher than they were, they’re still generally lower than what seven similarly sized counties use. The average level for sealed bids is more than $50,000, he said.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.