By PHIL NOBILE
After the town adopted legislation in April 2013 paving the way for broader purchasing power of services and items through the ability of “piggybacking contracts,” Harrison’s Town Council recently passed a local resolution to sign on with a national contracting group for future services.
Originally, municipalities like Harrison were only allowed to purchase services and items from an available New York state contract due to state law requirements. Local municipalities were also required to potentially go out for public bid when there was no state contract available for items upwards of $20,000, which meant they had to solicit offers for their own contracts and award those bids to the lowest responsible bidder.
Now, municipalities like Harrison can participate in contracts based on cooperative bids with any other municipality in the United States.
According to the bulletin from the state comptroller’s office on the exception, the stated purpose of the new law is “to reduce administrative and product cost and increase efficiencies.”
“It’s a good program, everybody is trying to push it and work with it,” Councilman Fred Sciliano, a Republican, said. “Now we’re able to purchase a potential product at the contract price that has been given to another municipality. It saves time and effort on the purchasing department.”
The Town Council adopted the resolution at its Jan. 16 meeting to register with Western States Contracting Alliance: A subsidiary of The National Association of State Procurement Officials that offers a cooperative purchasing program by providing offers and competitive resources for municipalities with which to coordinate.
The services provided by the alliance and NASPO have no fee for their usage.
“We bring volume to the table,” Paul Stembler, cooperative development coordinator for NASPO, said. “Last year, states and entities spent $9.7 billion through our contracts. That’s a lot more purchasing power than Harrison brings to the table.”
The “piggybacking” law advises municipalities to make decisions on procurement of services and items based on three prerequisites: The contract must be made with any entity or agency under the United States, New York state or any political subdivision; the contract must have been available to other governmental entities, allowing local governments’ offers; and the contract must go to the lowest responsible bidder or the bidder with the best value.
Recently, an amendment was added to state law advising that potential contracts must go to the lowest responsible bidder or the bidder based on best value in price. Initially, a bid only went to the lowest responsible bidder. That stipulation was amended in November 2013 and has a five-year sunset clause that expires in August 2017.
The town is currently not choosing services based on best value, instead still only on the basis of lowest responsible bidder. According to Comptroller Maureen MacKenzie, more research into the benefits of using a best value practice is required before it can go before the Town Council and possibly be adopted into local law.
“Further studying and investigation would be required before I would ask the board to adopt [it],” MacKenzie said.
Originally, the piggyback measure was put into effect in the state on August 2012.