Local business owner responds to purchasing problems

A local business owner responded to my monthly commission report by expressing his concerns with the way Blount County handles purchasing.  He asked that his personal information be removed because he doesn’t want any of his business partners suffering backlash from his comments on the subject.

“Hi Tona,

I just wanted to say thank you for all of your efforts not just being a rock of common sense and responsibility among so many squishy go-with-the-flow conformists on the commission, but also taking the time to keep the rest of us nose-to-the-grindstone types informed about what is going on in our local government.  You are doing an excellent job.

Regarding the issue of the county needing to get more bids on items and services they are purchashing, there is a web site where they are supposed to post these things, but it is little used.  You may already know about it, but if not here is a link:

http://www.blounttn.org/purchasing/select.asp

I check this almost every day to look for projects that my company might be interested in bidding on.  I do not remember seeing the commercial washer and dryer listed there.  Sometimes there are one or two items on the list, occasionally even four or five, but more often than not the list is empty as it is now.  For comparison, here are similar sites for the city of Knoxville, and for UT that always have many items on their list.

http://www.cityofknoxville.org/purchasing/

http://purchasing.tennessee.edu/bid_proposal_advert_list.html

I’m not sure what legal obligation the city has to post items on this web page that they intend to purchase (bid notices are also posted in the daily times and the two usually match – I check it daily also and didn’t see anything about the washer and dryer there either) maybe you could check with someone on their legal responsibility.  But putting aside the legality for a moment, it is not responsible government to conduct almost all of your purchasing without inviting interested parties to competitively bid and thus get a better price.  The web page already exists, so there is no excuse other than laziness on the part of well paid county employees (actually there could be other reasons but I won’t go there) not to list items there.  With the millions the county spends, I should not be looking at an empty list for weeks at a time.  My business resides in Blount County and pays a lot of taxes to fund Blount County government.  I should not be denied the opportunity to compete for county business because county employees can’t be bothered to do their job well.

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and wishing you a happy and prosperous New Year,”

I asked the gentleman if it was possible that the ad was in a different section of the newspaper.  His response is below.  Even if it was briefly listed online and in the paper one day, it shows how hard it is for people who try to keep up with county purchasing info to stay informed.  Clearly, these purchasing problems need to be addressed.  A great place to start is having a purchasing commission with people who will ask questions and demand more information and better purchasing accountability and policies.  The Purchasing Commission has been such a formality for years that mayor’s have called it by the wrong name, calling it the Purchasing Committee, when it’s the Purchasing Commission.  Tell Mayor Mitchell to split the Budget Committee and the Purchasing Commission into two separate bodies so that the taxpayers have more accountability during the purchasing process.  273-5700  emitchell@blounttn.org

 

“Tona,

I can’t say for certain that the washer and dryer was not posted in the paper – I don’t subscribe to the print copy or the online copy, I just review the community announcements section of the classifieds on their website, which is where bid notices are usually posted – here is the link I use:

http://www.thedailytimes.com/classifieds/community/announcements/?sd=desc&s=f_int_year

It is possible that the washer and dryer was posted in another section of the classifieds, or it might have been a day that I was too busy to check the classifieds, or I might just not remember since I’m looking for (other) things rather than washers and driers.  But it should also have been placed on the purchasing web site, and I’m pretty sure it was not.  Rather than the notice in the paper, which only appears for one day, items remain on the purchasing web site until the bid date, so I should have seen it there every day for a couple of weeks at least.  My memory is not what it used to be, but I hope it’s not that bad yet.

Right now the purchasing web site is empty – no listing for a health care benefits broker.

I think some departments might have lists of vendors that they have done business with before that they solicit bids from for new items, but the bid notices should also be made public (as should the lists of vendors that are sent bid invitations) so all vendors have an opportunity to bid if they choose.  Apparently this is done in some cases, but too often it is not done.  I’m sure the city of Knoxville and UT have issues as well, but comparing the amount of items on their purchasing sites to what Blount County has on theirs, they are miles ahead of us.

Thanks,”

Update: I received an email regarding this post that speaks to this matter.  Thus, I will try to learn more about this process and see what can be done to get better deals for the taxpayers.

“Tona,

What I have seen in dealing with McMinn County (and I would expect Blount to be similar) is that for work/items <$10,000 in value they (whomever for the County is purchasing) only have to obtain three independent prices to get a requisition approved. I.e. your washer and dryer example may not be publicly bid, but they should have obtained three prices and those can be obtained at the discretion of the purchaser. If the work/item is >$10,000 then there is a public bid and advertisement required, usually 10 days (calendar) prior to bid opening. They are only required to advertise it once locally, so the website is a luxury of sorts, but not required. McMinn also has a list of contractors that they will send the bid advertisement to on the jobs I design (or additional ones that I suggest) to increase the potential number of bidders.”

 

2 thoughts on “Local business owner responds to purchasing problems

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