The bidding, spending process

Saturday, February 10, 2007

It was a nice short civil council meeting last Monday. Although the agenda was short one item will have a lasting impact in the way the City does business. The change will impact how the city staff spends our taxes.

The City Ordinance governs how much money the City Manager can spend without going through the process of bidding. The threshold will be $20,000 if the ordinance receives two more YES votes from the Council.

Bidding is a cumbersome process. It takes time to specify exactly what is to be purchased, to advertise for bidders then to go through the formal process of opening the bids. Bidding and then accepting the lowest acceptable bid can be a painful process for those who have to do it. Most times it is easier and quicker to simply go and buy an appropriate item. Bidding however has the advantage of establishing the lowest price, exactly the desire of most taxpayers.

My fellow County Commissioner Eldon Moore, who served something like 40 years, used to tell about when he first got on the board, the only make of motor grader ever purchased was Caterpillar. The salesman would show up and tell the board that they could buy a particular machine for such and such a price, which incidentally happened to included new tires for the commissioner's personal pickup.

Then, according to Eldon, the State of Nebraska dictated that all purchases over, I think, $10,000 had to be publicly bid. Suddenly the price of new Caterpillar motor graders went down, other brands showed up, and certain "incentives" went away. Magic!

One of the great benefits of living in the USA is that business is conducted without the use of bribery so prevalent in many other parts of the world. The threshold of $20,000 for McCook may be appropriate; I have no quarrel with that number. The council has to be on its toes to watch that whoever does the purchasing for the city does not accept a "little incentive" on the side to buy an article of inferior value from a "partial" supplier.


I recently heard complaints about poor reception on McCook's TV cable.  It happened to be Channel 6 which carried the Super Bowl. The fuzzy picture angered many trying to watch the game.  Actually the city, staff or council, has no control over the operation of the TV cable although they gladly accept over $62,000 each year to protect the franchise holder from other cable competition. In my book, that $62,000 is just a way of extracting another tax. When the service is poor maybe your council member does have a stake in the quality of your reception after all.

That is the way I see it.

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