Letter: Wellington board made bad call on the irrigation bid

“Do as we say…not as we do” has apparently become the motto of the Wellington Board of Trustees. Based on their recent decision to award an irrigation bid to a Fort Collins company, and the not-so-recent decision to send thousands of Wellington tax dollars to a Fort Collins multi-billion dollar business for the town employees’ and spouses’ Christmas party, I would say that title appropriately fits.

As some have read, Wellington is still licking its wounds from the recent decision by Main Street Market grocery to shut its doors due to lack of revenue and local patronage. This unfortunate decision will cost the town in excess of $140K in annual tax revenue. Following this announcement a concerted effort was made to get the word out to try and save this business (kudos to those involved), but more importantly to emphasize to Wellington citizens if we wanted amenities such as a rec center, walking trails, etc. we needed to keep Wellington dollars in Wellington and patronize our businesses as much as possible.

A quote from Trustee Brinkhoff in the March, 2012 North Forty News speaking in regard to MSM closing and the town’s desire for a public pool (which I think is a bad idea):

“We as a community really need to support our local businesses if we ever want to see opportunities like this come to fruition… Until we have buy-in from our whole community, we may never be able to support many new ventures to our town.”

Nice words Mr. Brinkhoff but unfortunately, the first chance the WBoT had to show their support for local businesses and their commitment to stand behind that support they throw the local business under the bus for a measly $600.

Wellington took bids on an irrigation project for a ball field. The lowest bid came from a Fort Collins company and came in at $600 below the local company bid which ended up being 15 percent higher when compared to the total bid. For those of us who do a great deal of shopping at local businesses, that is about the same difference you would find on a lot of the products vs. Fort Collins competitors, even Main Street Market. That is just a reality in a small town. If you want conveniences similar to a larger town it will cost you a little more. It doesn’t take an economics major to understand that, or at least I didn’t think it did.

Instead of looking at the bigger picture of dollars supporting infrastructure, jobs, additional tax revenue when those dollars are re-spent inside the town at restaurants, gas stations and most importantly the credibility of this board, the WBoT decided to take the low road and go with the lowball bid and once again, send Wellington tax dollars to Fort Collins to help support their infrastructure. Lord knows Fort Collins needs more amenities and the support of Wellington taxpayers (sarcasm). And what becomes more concerning for me is, and I haven’t decided if this is ironic or prophetic, the town mayor was the Main Street Market assistant manager and also voted to award the bid to the Fort Collins company. Wow.

So, if part of the duties of the WBoT is to set an example to the rest of the community through your actions, which I think it is, I give you an “F” this semester because if every citizen chose to follow your examples and take the low road and go with the lowball bid, cheapest cost, or convenience, Wellington will soon become a ghost town.

Mike Sullivan

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  1. Is there a statuatory requirement for the board to accept a lowest cost bid instead of a best value bid?
    While I understand your position, I’m not sure the board has the legal authority to award contracts because of where a company making a bid is is physically located.

    • The board can award a bid to anyone as long as the wording in the bid does not state their decision will be based on the bid amount. Some towns use the theory of throwing out the lowest and highest and going with a middle bid. It largely depends on what is written in the bid request.
      Also, I confirmed with the town hall this was not technically a bid but a ‘request for quote’ so they were definitely under no obligation to award it to the lowest company.
      The town sent out seven requests and only got 2 quotes back and the board went with the lowest even though they had no experience with the FtC company. The Wellington company had actually done work for the town last year and they even admitted in the meeting it was satisfactory work.

  2. OK. I understand.
    I hate talking hypotheticals, but for conversation’s sake, at what dollar amount does a town board use for a “too much” to support a local company?

    I assume, by your letter, that you think $600 is an acceptable amount for a town to keep business local and not award to the lowest priced bid or request for quote.

    Is a difference between quotes $1,000 too much to keep business local? What about $10,000? $100,000? Millions? Or if one to use percentages of the contract – 5%, 10%, 75%?
    Obviously, the town board is (or should be) required to use tax dollars in the most fiscally responsible manner.
    I think you’d see a whole different set of letters to the editor if the town board was not awarding lowest cost contracts and only using company location as the deciding factor.
    My point is that, you’ve got a great issue and its not just a small town problem. I think we struggle with this at county, state and national trade levels. But, at some point our fiscal stewards have to say, “Sorry. Your bid wasn’t competitive.”

    • Marc, I totally understand. My point to the board was, they are requesting citizens to spend upwards of 10-20% more to patronize local businesses. $600 was approximately 15% higher than the lowest bid, I pointed those two things out to the board but they still chose the lowest bid even though they had experience with the local company and none with the FtC company.

      That on top of spending thousands at Anhauser Busch on a Christmas party that was always held within the town limits in the past but as soon as the board of trustees took it over they send it to a FtC company. I personally resigned my position on the variance board over that decision but apparently it made no impact and the board just proved once again they really don’t care what citizens really have to say, they will do what they want.

      But, to answer your initial question, they need to use common sense. Thier initial response was to put in place a 5% premium that would award local businesses the bid if it was within 5% of some limit. I just told my wife the other day that made no sense because of the issue you mention; what if the bid is $1M? That’s a $50K premium and unacceptable. They need to put in place a discount framework that would have a graduated discount rate based on the bid amount.

      Unfortuantely, they have given me, and others, the impression they really don’t care what others think so I’ve come to the conclusion of, why waste my breath anymore.

  3. Obviously Marc you have a better understanding about the processes the town has to follow when making these kind of decisions. As you can imagine, there are actual purchasing policy guidlines they must follow. “Section 2 Code of Conduct: A. Every person engaged in purchasing for the Town shall act to aquire materials and services at the lowest reasonable price, in the proper quality, to reliably accomplish the service intended.” It sounds like the Town made the appropriate call considering they are dealing with taxpayer dollars, it also sounds like the Town Board is being proactive in considering ways to give local companies an edge with the 5% premium. Mr. Sullivan, I do agree a graduated premium would be a more appropriate route to deal with bigger contracts.
    As for the Christmas Party, in previous years it was held at Wellington Village which is owned by a company in Greeley and was catered by a Fort Collins company, the town clerk made those arrangements. Although it was in Wellington, it doesn’t sound as if the money was REALLY spent locally. Why was it not a problem then? Also, I have attended Town BBQ’s where the food was bought at Sam’s or Walmart instead of the local grocer because they were cheaper. Again decisions made by the Town Clerk. Was she wise to save money for the taxpayers or should we have attacked her?

  4. Scott, you cannot just look at the current cost. You also have to look at the fact dollars spent in Wellington usually get spent more than once in Wellington. Dollars spent in FtC usually get spent more than once in FtC, not Wellington.

    As for the Christmas party, my understanding is the previous parties were sponsored by the town attorney’s firm, not Wellington tax dollars, but I could be wrong.

    My main point is, if the BoT wants to promote keeping dollars in Wellington, they need to practice what they preach when feasible.

    Did you know the $2K spent in FtC for the Christmas party equates to ~$67K of grocery tax @ 3%. If a family spends on average $250 a week on groceries it would take 5.5 families an entire year of 100% grocery shopping at MSM to make up those dollars.

    It took me an entire year concentrating my spending on home improvement stuff at Ace instead of Home Depot just so the BoT could wipe it out on one purchase outside of Wellington. Even though I spent 10-15% more to keep my dollars in Wellington, it still ended up in FtC.

    So, yes, it is frustrating to see the town leaders doing the opposite of what they are asking town citizens to do and I don’t see this as an attack. I see it as a taxpayer’s responsibility to ensure those people who have asked for, and been given, the responsibility to help run this town spend our dollars in a responsible manner. And if they appear to not be doing that, they should be questioned.

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