First District County Commissioner Tim Brinker

The Franklin County Commission has reduced the amount of public bidding it must do by designating three computer firms as preapproved vendors.

This means when the county needs computer work done, it can use one of the firms on the preapproved list without having to solicit quotes from other companies.

Under state law, the county must publicly advertise for bids if more than $6,000 is spent with the same company in 90 days.

But if the companies are preapproved, the county can continue to do business with the firms even if more than $6,000 is spent in 90 days.

“All that it does is that it expands our vendor list — people we can purchase goods and services from without having to go to bid if it exceeds a certain limit,” Franklin County Information Technology Director Larry Sikes told the county commissioners Tuesday.

But County Counselor Mark Vincent said it is inaccurate to say that preapproved vendors do not have to go through a public bid process.

The method by which the vendors become preapproved is a bidding process in itself, Vincent said.

“By doing this you’ve already bid,” Vincent said. “It eliminates the need for additional bidding, not for bidding.”

Vincent added, “This eliminates us from having to go out for bids on each individual project, but we did bid.”

The state and federal government follow the same process, Vincent said. The county highway department also uses preapproved vendors for supplies such as tires and oil.

Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer asked Vincent what would happen if a computer server went down and needed to be replaced.

“Do we go out for bid or not?” Griesheimer asked.

Vincent replied, “No,” adding, “We buy off of those preapproved lists. You don’t have to bid out again. You’re already bidding it out now.”

Moreover, Vincent said having preapproved vendors helps the county control costs by having a set amount of mark up that firms charge for products and services.

First District County Commissioner Tim Brinker said having preapproved vendors, “streamlines the process” while at the same time allowing the county to maintain its stewardship over taxpayer dollars.

With preapproved vendors, the county has already established that the prices offered by those firms are the “lowest and best” without the need for repetitive bids, Brinker said.

Brinker noted that having a set of preapproved vendors that the county can use without going through a lengthy bidding process each time is especially vital for the information technology department.

For instance, if computer equipment goes down, the county may need to get the system running again quickly, Brinker said.

The bidding process can take six weeks, Sikes said.

However, even without preapproved vendors the county can waive the bid process for emergencies. Bidding also can be waived for professional services, such as attorneys, architects and engineers.

The computer firms that the commissioners designated preapproved vendors Tuesday were CDS Office Technologies of Earth City; AQM Computer Help of Union; and Crane Solutions of Union.

They will be preapproved vendors for 2013 and 2014.