06/26/06 — New bidding process saving county money

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New bidding process saving county money

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on June 26, 2006 1:46 PM

A new bidding process for companies competing for service contracts with Wayne County could save the county an estimated $120,000 over the next four years, county officials said.

A reverse auction process creates a more competitive environment, said county leaders, who learned of the process at a local government forum earlier this year.

"The counties have been slow at getting to this, and I don't understand why because the counties buy a lot of stuff,"County Manager Lee Smith said.

The county entered into a partnership with Asset Management Technologies to set up the process for the county Finance Department.

The county first used the new bidding process two weeks ago, when county officials were looking for a company from which to buy new copying machines.

In the past, the Finance Department would mail the necessary paperwork to prospective companies. The responses would be returned in sealed envelopes and county officials look for the best deal.

Under the new process, the county's specifications are sent over the Internet. Asset Management Technologies assists with finding the vendors, which helps the county reach more of them.

Noelle Woods, the fixed assets manager for the Finance Department, said that instead of the usual half-dozen or so bidders for copiers, Wayne received bids from 23 companies.

"I don't think we've ever had numbers like that in the past," Mrs. Woods said.

The bid process took place in Mrs. Woods' office. The office is secured, with no one allowed to carry a cell phone into the room while the bids are accepted to prevent any information leaks to any company involved in the process.

"We have to have a secure environment. That means no cell phones or Blackberrys or anything else. Once a person comes into the office, they have to stay in to keep the integrity of the bid," Mrs. Woods said.

During the 30-minute bidding process, a representative of each company knows only where the company ranks based on its bid, Finance Director Norman Ricks said.

When a company representative sees that its bid is no longer in first place, Ricks said, it encourages that company to submit a lower bid.

Any bid within the last three minutes of the process extends the bidding another three minutes. During the copier bidding auction, 77 bids from four companies were received in the final minutes, pushing the process an additional 18 minutes, Mrs. Woods said.

The final bid of 0.0185 cents for black and white copies and 0.0950 cents for color copies was placed by Toshiba Business Solutions, which got the contract.

The new bidding process could do more than save money, County Manager Lee Smith said, it should help make it easier for Wayne County businesses to deal with the county.

"We want to encourage some of our local vendors to get into this. It could open up new markets for local businesses," Smith said.

For any local businesses and vendors that would like to learn more about the reverse auction process, call the county's finance department at 731-1417.