The Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors decided Wednesday, Nov. 14 not to extend existing goods and services contracts after finding that it could save money by putting out competitive bids.
Director of Operations & Maintenance Jason Lester explained that the general services contracts have been in place for nearly 10 years. Former administrators brought the program in and modified it from other special districts in South Florida. The format gave exclusivity to contractors and left no negotiation for materials and services, according to the staff report.
“This format works well with minimal staffing without the ability to do the tasks in-house,” Lester said. “We do have the ability to perform tasks in-house.”
Reading from the staff report, Lester said the original contracts were for three years with the ability to extend for an additional two years. The current fiscal year will be the last year for these extensions. Extensions were sent out at the end of September and the beginning of October, and only one responded wanting to extend.
“With the implementation of the culvert replacement program, we identified a need to shop for a better program for goods and services,” Lester said. “This also expanded when a tree-clearing contractor was needed for clearing a quarter-mile of canal bank.”
Under the current general services contract, clearing that section of canal bank would have cost more than $100,000. The cost is calculated by tree size and quantity. The current general services contracts expired on Sept. 30, leaving staff to use the existing purchasing policy and procurement matrix. Three quotes were received for the same work, and the lowest qualified contractor came in at under $20,000, according to the staff report.
This led to a recommendation that the board not extend the one responding contractor and allow time to review the purchasing policy to overhaul the general services contracts.
Lester said the exact figure was $16,600 for the lowest bidder.
“This is the first one of many that we’re looking at, but this is a pilot… the first one in quite some time,” he said. “We need access to that canal in order to maintain it, dredge it and spray it.”
Lester believes that changes are necessary to make sure ITID gets the best value for its dollars.
“We try to be competitive, wanting the best value, and it’s working now, getting our three quotes, and we want to remove the exclusivity of general services, so we have the ability to get pricing,” he said. “Right now, we don’t have the ability to ask for pricing.”
ITID President Betty Argue pointed out that the existing contracts have no guarantee of work and no exclusivity, but the adopted policy has exclusivity.
“Once you’ve adopted those contracts, the policy prevents us from going out and getting quotes,” Argue said, adding that staff would still have to come back to the board for expenses over $20,000. “I think you have done a great job of saving us $80,000 on this one project.”
ITID Attorney Frank Palin said he has discussed with Lester and ITID Manager Rob Robinson about the new approach to purchasing.
“Florida purchasing law provides that if you adopt a purchasing policy, you have to follow it because the public has the right to rely on your stated policies,” Palin said. “This approach has been in place for 10 years, and it’s really not working.”
Palin agreed that a new approach is appropriate.
“If you approve the recommendation tonight, you are suspending the avocation of this existing policy and completely revising it,” Palin said, explaining that several areas of the district’s policies would need to be examined over the next six months.
Supervisor Ralph Bair said the policies were originally intended to guarantee that a contractor was available at any time.
“You get services, but you pay more,” Bair said. “This is a heck of a savings, and I hope it works out.”
Argue said contractors are not responding because they have jobs.
“Just because we’re a government, people think we’re flush with money, but we have to save every nickel we have right now to reinvest in what we have to do,” she said.
Argue said she would like to see a policy come back in the next three months, and once the board adopts the policy, put it out to bid to have the contracts, but also have a policy that allows competitive bidding.
Argue asked for a motion to suspend any existing contractors to allow staff time to review the existing purchasing policy. Supervisor Tim Sayre, participating by telephone, made the motion, which carried unanimously.