12/17/2009

By Lisa Loomis

After several months of revisions and discussion, the Waitsfield Select Board has approved a procurement policy that spells out the objectives the town will use for purchases large and small.

The select board approved the policy at its December 14 meeting. The board wants the policy to create an environment where fairness and accountability are part of the purchasing process. In particular, the policy objectives call for maximizing the purchasing power of tax dollars, promoting waste reduction and recycling, and purchasing locally whenever possible.

The policy calls for all purchases of $10,000 or more to be subjected to a sealed bid process and approval by the select board. Bids will be opened publicly within seven days. Contracts for major purchases will be decided by the select board.

FULL BID PROCESS

Purchases, goods or services that cost between $1,000 and $4,999 do not require select board approval as long as the expenditure is included in a regular line item budget that has been approved by voters. Purchases between $5,000 and $9,999 require select board approval along with quotes from at least two vendors (unless the select board has approved a sole source vendor or the full bid process is used).

Purchases under $1,000 do not require bids or quotes -- unless soliciting quotes is practicable. Purchases under $1,000 are defined as "incidental" and those purchasing choices can be made based on cost, quality of goods and services and "the best interests of the community," according to the policy the board approved.

In terms of legal, financial and other professional services, the policy notes that "the purchase of professional services may be exempt from the formal bid process by the select board. It is recognized that proposals for professional services including but not limited to legal counsel, insurance, financial, auditing, engineering or architectural services, risk management, and some other types of consulting services are difficult to compare and that weight must be given to many considerations other than price. In any case, the purchase of professional services whose cost is expected to exceed $5,000 for a project must be approved by the select board."

COMPETITIVE BASIS

In selecting vendors, the policy calls for making the selection on a competitive basis. Purchases will be awarded to the least costly, best qualified and most responsible vendor. Bids may be rejected if the board deems it in the best interest of the town. In making these determinations, the board will consider several items beyond the cost, including a vendor's past performance, the character, integrity, reputation experience, financial resources and quality of service or goods of the vendor. The board will also consider the distance goods or services must travel to be provided in Waitsfield so as to support local investment and minimize the town's carbon footprint (use of fossil fuel).

EMERGENCY OPERATING PLAN

Some items are exempt from the purchasing policy, including equipment repairs, utilities, routine maintenance and service contracts. In case of emergencies, the procurement policy can be waived and town officers and employees will have the authority to make purchasing decisions in accordance with an approved emergency operating plan for the town.

The final clause of the purchasing policy calls for purchasing American-made products if the price of the goods and services is no more than 6 percent higher than the non-domestically produced goods or services.

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