To the Editor:
In response to Susan Ridgeway’s Letter to The Editor on the same subject, it appears that Susan is somewhat knowledgeable on the subject of “no bid” contracts.
I have some limited knowledge of this same issue as it related to work that my structural engineering firm did for several municipalities in the Chicago Area. When we were asked to submit a proposal for work, it came after we submitted a response to a request for qualifications, since professional services were usually negotiated with the successful engineer. In Illinois, it is considered somewhat unethical for engineers or architects to “bid” for services on the basis of cost alone. Winning approval based upon qualifications did not guarantee that a contract for services would be awarded, since a fee estimate (either lump sum or hourly with a guaranteed maximum) had to be provided by the engineer and approved by the municipality. Final approval of the contract with the engineer occurred after an open meeting with audience participation. Generally speaking, these contracts were for fees that did not often exceed $100,000 and were often even less.
When it came to the award of a contract for construction, very specific construction documents prepared by the selected engineer for open bidding. Most of the time, the contracts for construction were awarded to the lowest QUALIFIED bidder, which allowed the municipality to reject a bid if the bidder was deemed to be incapable of performing the contract.
The entire process included scrutiny from beginning to end by the municipality overseeing both the engineer and the contractor. None of that appears to be present in the matter discussed – IT services in particular. Other comments I have read seem to indicate that the company that got the no bid contract is not using up to date IT systems. In my opinion, the golf tee time system could use much updating and that is only a part of what this company is supposed to be taking care of.
If Susan is correct that the “no bid” process violates state laws, the incoming commissioners should be given the responsibility to investigate if indeed a violation occurred; and if it did occur, that alone should be enough to void the contract and put the work out for proper open bidding, which should include a request for proposals based upon specific criteria for scope of work and subsequent performance of services. A contract of the size indicated warrants open bidding, especially in view of the fact that Sumter County’s taxes went up significantly. Hopefully, the new commissioners can find a way to stop this waste of our money.
Village of Lake Deaton