Bayonne has raised the minimum amount of money required for contracts to go out for bids.
The Bayonne City Council has approved a resolution authorizing a maximum allowable bid threshold of $44,000 before going out for bids. The previous threshold was $32,000.
The council voted unanimously at its July 20 meeting. At the meeting, officials explained the reason behind the changes in response to resident questions.
Former city employee and outspoken resident Gail Godesky questioned the city council as to why the maximum allowable bid threshold before going out to bid.
“The bidding process is a way to ensure equal access to contracts and work to all businesses,” Godesky said. “But more importantly, it ensure that Bayonne taxpayers get the best prices for its services. Seems like, in my opinion, another way to pad pocket, and hand pick developers, law firms, etcetera. I would like to ask our elected council, what is the benefit for the residents of Bayonne by doing this, with respect?”
Law Director Jay Coffey began to answer, before Godesky clarified she was asking the elected officials. Coffey continued that City Council President Gary La Pelusa has deferred to him when it is a legal question, to which La Pelusa confirmed. Afterwards, Coffey explained the gist of the change authorized by the resolution.
State allowing the increase
Coffey explained that the state now allows qualified municipalities with qualified purchasing agents (QPA) to increase the threshold required before contracts go out to bid.
“The state of New Jersey sets the public contracting law,” Coffey said. “The state of New Jersey has increased the allowable sum to $44,000 for those municipalities with a qualified purchasing agent. We have a qualified purchasing agent.”
The new number the state allows the threshold to be is $44,000. Coffey said that has increased numerous times under his tenure, most recently from $32,000.
“I think it was about $17,000 when I started,” Coffey said. “Then they went up to $23,000 and then $32,000. Now we’re at $44,000, which in the scheme of things, that’s a lot of money for me and you. But when you’re talking about contracts, it’s not a lot of money. So essentially, the state said we’re okay with the fact that up to $44,000, the QPA should have the ability to issue contracts without having to get municipal council approval. Because those are the smaller contracts in the scheme of things.”
Godesky asked for an example, to which Coffey obliged.
“If we want to buy $30,000 worth of [something], she would be able to go out to solicit three different quotes from three different providers and not have to put it out for an RFP,” Coffey said. RFP stands for Request for Proposal, or the official way of phrasing “going out to bid.”
Council approval still required
Godesky asked if the council would still have to approve the awarded contracts, to which Coffey confirmed that would still happen. He said it just means that the contracts wouldn’t have to go out to bid if they were less than $44,000.
“It would not necessitate the need to go out for bid under local public contracts law,” Coffey said. “There’s several laws that come into play. At $17,500 you have to worry about pay-to-play. At $44,000, you have to worry about whether or not you have to go out to bid. There are 26 exceptions and then some sub parts to the local public contracts law, open public bidding. So there are all these exceptions.”
Coffey said the measure also aims to make smaller contracts more cost-effective.
‘The state is cognizant of the fact that the smaller contracts might cost more money in professional fees to develop the bid documents than it would to go out for the actual contract,” Coffey said. “So $44,000 is the statutory limit that the state of New Jersey says any municipality with a QPA can go up to. And we’re just memorializing the fact that we’re going to go up to that.”
Godesky thanked Coffey for the explanation. She added that she trusted Purchasing Agent Amy Dellabella to handle everything just fine.
“I have total faith in Amy that she’ll do a good job,” Godesky said.
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