County to consider new purchasing plan

Saturday, March 5, 2005

New Cape Girardeau County Treasurer Roger Hudson is proposing a purchasing policy he says will help save the county money on supplies and eliminate legwork for county department heads.

Upon the urging of Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones, Hudson's aim is to centralize the county's purchasing of office supplies and materials, which would mean the county could buy more supplies in bulk and take advantage of more state contracts for competitive pricing. The idea has not yet been adopted by the county commission.

"The two main goals," Hudson said, "are one, to save money. And two, to become more vendor friendly."

Currently, county officeholders have autonomy over their own department's office supplies for anything less than $150. For items $150 to $4,500, department heads must seek three bids and get approval from the commission. For anything over $4,500 the county must go through a formal bidding process where the bids are advertised then submitted to the county clerk's office.

Under Hudson's plan, a purchasing agent -- Hudson at least for the time being -- would be in charge of office supplies.

Department heads would tell the purchasing agent how much paper, pens and other supplies they need over a given time. The purchasing agent would then seek the lowest bids for bulk purchases. The county averages $60,000 per year in office supplies, a figure Hudson thinks can be cut significantly.

"The way it works right now is that anything less than $150, the individual officers can go out and buy as they need it," he said. "Surely they should try and get the best price, but that doesn't mean that's what's happening."

Hudson said there is enough room in the basement of the county administration building to store many of the supplies. Some supplies, like paper, can be delivered to various buildings on an as-needed basis, he said.

He also said centralized purchasing will give the county a better knowledge of where to find the best deals.

Jones said the idea is one the county has needed to explore for a long time. "The commission thought there was a good possibility we could do bulk buying, and we thought we might could save some money by doing so."

The idea is not totally embraced by all county officeholders.

"I've got mixed feelings," said Sheriff John Jordan. "For some things it would work OK. But they tried to do the same thing with toner cartridges awhile back and it took days for us to get a toner cartridge. We just don't have time for that."

Although he concedes that it could save money on some items, he's concerned that centralized purchasing will create another tier of bureaucracy.

"In our business time is often of the essence, and we have to have something right then," Jordan said. "But for paper and things like that, it'll be fine."

For items costing more than $150 and less than $4,500, department heads would work with the purchasing agent before going to the commission.

If the assessor needed a computer, he would ask for three bids. He would take the lowest bid to the purchasing agent, who would then see if he could get a better deal. Hudson said the county could take advantage of state contracts for things like office furniture.

"Hopefully part of the policy will be that if the state has a contract, we can use that as a base and not go through the bidding process," he said. "Then we can go locally and see if anyone can meet or almost beat the price."

Hudson said the commission likely will approve a bid to a local vendor if it is within 5 percent of a nonlocal lowest bid.

Part of Hudson's proposed purchasing policy will include posting bids on the county's Web site. Beyond that, vendors can sign up and receive e-mails when products or services go out for bid.

bmiller@semissourian.com

243-6635

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