Franklin County may soon have a few more technology firms that it can purchase from without having to go through a public bid process.
The county commission on Tuesday was scheduled to consider whether to designate three computer technology companies as pre-approved vendors.
The goal is to save time by allowing county department heads to sign off on purchases without having to go through a lengthy bid process that can take six weeks, said county Information Technology Director Larry Sikes.
Under state law, if the county spends more than $6,000 with the same vendor in a 90-day period it has to seek bids through a public advertising process, said County Auditor Tammy Vemmer.
But if the vendors are pre-approved, then public bidding is not required even if more than $6,000 is spent in 90 days.
Vemmer said she does not worry that avoiding the public bid process puts the county at risk of paying more. Even if the county publicly bid each contract, she said she thinks the same vendors would respond.
Even without public bids, purchases are still scrutinized, Second District County Commissioner Mike Schatz said.
He added that it is not as if county departments are given a “blank check.”
Department heads must sign purchase orders stating that the product or service is needed, Vemmer said. The auditor must sign off on the purchase order to certify money is in the budget to cover the cost, and one county commissioner also must authorize the purchase order.
All of the signatures are needed before the purchase order is processed for payment, Vemmer said. Each county commissioner is designated a set of departments to sign purchase orders for, Vemmer noted.
Still, avoiding the public bid process allows departments to work more freely, Schatz noted.
The county recently solicited firms to be pre-approved vendors for the county’s information technology department, and there were three responses. Those were from CDS Technologies of Earth City; AQM of Union; and Crane Solutions of Union.
If approved, the agreements would be active for two years. Sikes said he recommends that the county accept all three of the firms as pre-approved vendors.
It will be good to have more firms that his department can look to for services and equipment, Sikes said.
“This gives us an opportunity to explore other companies,” Sikes said, noting that this will help ensure that the county is getting the best prices.
The county also can avoid going through the bid process by using contracts the state already has awarded.
Even with pre-approved vendors, Sikes said there still could be times that he would seek public bids for projects.
Vemmer said the jail uses pre-approved vendors for food, and the highway department utilizes them for tires, oil, tree removal and brush removal.