Ocean City Today

County tries standardization

By Brian Gilliland | Aug 24, 2017

(Aug. 25, 2017) As they address a slate of projects that range from the mundane to vital and even speculative demands, the Worcester County Commissioners have remained relatively stable in one thing: competitive bidding.

Though not always possible on every project, the board of commissioners that took over following the November 2014 election generally has sent work and materials for new and recurring projects out to bid in an effort to obtain the best prices.

While that approach can pay dividends on certain projects, the commissioners last week followed the lead of Commissioner Merrill Lockfaw to standardize the acquisition process for some of the Public Works department’s equipment to address concerns regarding replacement parts and maintenance.

The county was considering a relatively minor purchase of two cab tractors for its Roads Division on Aug. 15 to assist with mowing and other maintenance functions. The commissioners had five bids to consider that met the requirements, with the cheapest price being $103,600 to the most expensive at $142,000.

John Tustin, director of public works, recommended the second-lowest bid — itself a break with tradition — to have the tractor painted yellow for better visibility. The vendor was the same as the lowest bid, but the paint job would cost $3,000 extra.

Lockfaw, a former employee of the Roads Division, suggested going with the fourth-highest bid, a John Deere model costing about $117,500, or about $9,000 more than the suggested yellow tractor.

Tustin said the John Deere model was also yellow.

Lockfaw said when the department has more than one kind of tractor, keeping the parts for quick repairs and maintenance on schedule can cause more problems than it solves.

The lowest-price tractor would be the only one of its make and model in the county’s 12-tractor fleet.

Tustin said his department has shrunk over the past few years, and keeping the equipment running is his most important consideration.

Commissioner Chip Bertino, one of the most vocal advocates of competitive bidding on the board, asked Tustin what he thought.

Tustin said standardization can be a great tool, and picking a manufacturer and sticking with it can speed up the replacement process.

Kelly Shannahan, assistant county administrator, said the danger of going through a single vendor could cause prices to rise.

Bertino wondered if the amount of potential savings could be quantified.

“Just because we pick a make and model doesn’t mean we’re going to lose competitive bidding,” Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said. He said there had to be 30 John Deere vendors in the area.

The commissioners subsequently unanimously approved purchasing the John Deere tractors at the higher price.

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