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Supervisors eye savings in bid plans

Lincoln County supervisors just said “no.”

County leaders on Monday opened their annual bids for 2011.However, what is normally a quick, sweeping acceptance of thelowest prices for tools and material for the next year of countymaintenance turned into a long discussion of necessity.

Aiming to save money and cut through red tape, supervisors rejectedseveral of the offers, opting instead to re-bid for supplies onshorter agreements or purchase them as needed.

“If we don’t get locked into an annual bid, when we need some ofthese things we can go through our purchasing regulations and savemoney,” said Board President Doug Moak. “We realized we werewasting a little time and effort accepting some of thesebids.”

First and foremost, supervisors rejected bids on asphalt andemulsion – costly materials they constantly need for paving andpatching roads – and voted to advertise for new bids on three-monthagreements. The cost of asphalt and emulsion fluctuates in concertwith global oil prices, and locking in a bid in January could causesupervisors to overpay for the material if oil prices fall later inthe year.

Supervisors locked in a yearlong bid on asphalt last year and endedup overpaying for the material later in 2010 when pricesfell.

“Last year we had $72 per ton on asphalt, and later it came down to$68 per ton,” Moak said. “That $4 means a lot when you use quite abit.”

Furthermore, asphalt producers don’t always hold up their end ofthe deal when supervisors lock in a low rate and prices rise.

“If someone locks in a price in January and they didn’t foresee oilprices skyrocketing, a lot of times they’re not able to honor theirbid,” Moak said. “We could take legal action against them, but thatis costly and complicated, too.”

The purchasing laws governing county purchases will allowsupervisors to buy the rejected bid materials as needed. The lawallows supervisors to gather a minimum of two price quotes andaccept the lowest bid if the item being purchased costs $5,000 to$50,000. No bidding is required for purchases under $5,000.

Supervisors also rejected bids to supply bridge components,directing the county engineers to locate suppliers on an as-neededbasis; limestone rock and aggregate rock, which can be purchased asneeded; and motor grader blades, which can be purchased locally,well below the $5,000 threshold.

The rejections should allow supervisors to save money on purchasesin a time when revenues are down and prices are up.

Supervisors even adjusted the bids they accepted.

Three companies’ bids were accepted to supply the county with rockand gravel, with supervisors planning to use all three depending onthe location of the job site. Brookhaven-based Dickerson and Bowen,Inc., offered to supply rock and gravel at $9.90 per ton; OddeeSmith Construction, Inc., priced material at $9.80 per ton; andTylertown’s Associated Sand and Gravel priced the material at $10per ton.

Since all three companies require supervisors to transport the rockand gravel, the difference in bid prices could be neutralized byfuel prices. Supervisors hope to use the Tylertown company for jobsin extreme southern Lincoln County and use the Brookhaven companyfor jobs close to the city. District Five jobs can be completedcheapest by using Oddee Smith’s gravel almost exclusively.

Board Attorney Bob Allen is checking to make the law will allowsuch picking and choosing.

Supervisors also accepted three bids for rented equipment andoperators from Oddee Smith, S and S Dragline Service, Inc., andMathis Dozer. All three bids were accepted because the threecompanies offer various equipment and services.

Gordon Redd Lumber Co. will supply the county with treated lumberfor $9 per linear foot, while Columbia’s Dial Inc., will supplyplastic and metal culverts. Jackson’s Custom Products will takecare of the county’s highway signage needs.

Orkin of McComb will provide pest control to county buildings for$275 per month, and Insurance and Risk Managers will handleperformance bonds. Several companies were accepted for depositorybids.