Smithtown shifts standards for awarding bids

Smithtown shifts standards for awarding bids

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Town Board changes decision-making process when granting contracts based on ‘best value’

Town Board members mull over the proposal to add a chapter to the town code changing the ways contracts are bidded out at a previous public hearing. Photo by Phil Corso

Smithtown’s Town Board unanimously green-lighted the adding of a chapter to the town code that awards bids based on best value rather than simply giving contracts to the lowest bidder.

The change came pursuant to a state general municipal law that allowed towns to authorize the awarding of certain purchase contracts, including contracts for services exceeding $20,000, based on best value, which Assistant Town Attorney Janice Hansen described as more cost efficient in the long term, as opposed to the cheapest option in the short term.

“The best value option may be used if, for example, it is more cost efficient over time to award the good or service to other than the lowest bidder or offerer, if factors such as lower cost of maintenance, durability, higher quality and longer product life can be documented,” she said at an April 7 public hearing on the matter.

Contracts for public works projects, however, were not included under the new chapter, Hansen said.
The state law described the standards for best value as projects that “optimize quality, cost and efficiency among responsive and responsible bidders or offerers.”

But Charlie Gardner, director of government affairs for the Long Island chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association, spoke on behalf of his group’s 47 different electrical contractors in Nassau and Suffolk counties in saying there were concerns over the wording of the measure. By awarding contracts based on best value and not just price, Gardner said he was worried about the level of subjectivity that might arise in the decision-making process and was simply looking for reassurance from the board.

“If you read the standards for best value, it does cite where possible determinants should be based on objective and quantifiable analysis of clearly described and documented criteria, which is fine,” he said. “But why does it say, ‘Where possible?’ Shouldn’t it always be the determination based on that? We’re not quibbling with the intent of the law and we certainly have faith in the current Town Board, but down the road, when subjectivity enters into it, that’s the concern of my members.”

Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said the board would take Gardner’s concerns into consideration in making future decisions on contracts and also ensure any awards are justified as they are rolled out.

The state law requires that entities must document their reasoning for awarding a contract based on best value instead of to the lowest responsible bidder.

Smithtown’s Town Board voted 5-0 in support of the measure at its April 23 meeting, making the new chapter supersede any inconsistent provisions of the town’s procurement policy enacted before the unanimous vote.