Traverse City Record-Eagle

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July 7, 2013

Grand Traverse backtracks on vehicle maintenance contract

TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse County’s procurement practices might need a tune-up.

A committee of Grand Traverse County commissioners voted in early June to give a three-year vehicle maintenance contract to D&W Auto, even though the business’ contract bid came in late and violated the county’s procurement policy.

The county board awarded the bid to D&W, but subsequently backtracked and ordered the bids redone after another bidder questioned the committee’s vote.

”I’m not trying to burn my bridge here,” unsuccessful bidder and Traverse City Fleet Repair owner Mark Grist said during a commission meeting. “I just thought it was unfair. I’m trying to be fair.”

The county publicly solicits bids for any contract worth more than $10,000 annually. The county procurement policy states contract bids must be submitted in a sealed envelope before a set deadline. The bids are kept secret until the deadline, then all bids are reviewed together. The policy explicitly forbids submitting bids by fax.

D&W faxed their bid to the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Department, the department that oversaw the bidding process. The fax also came in after the bid deadline.

Commissioners ultimately vote on the recipient of contracts based in large part on the bidding results.

The procurement policy’s intent is to ensure fairness in the awarding of public contracts, County Administrator Dave Benda said.

Three businesses, including Fleet Repair, turned in maintenance contract bids on time. But D&W’s late, faxed bid bested all others with the lowest hourly rate and parts costs.

Grand Traverse County sheriff’s officials presented all the bids, and an explanation of D&W’s tardy entry, to the county commission so board members could decide whether to accept the late bid, Sheriff Tom Bensley said.

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