By JEFF SCHULTZ
The Porter County
Board of Commissioners voted in favor of implementing a conflict of interest
policy concerning how it hires consultants on Tuesday, and signaled their
interest in compiling a responsible bidder policy.
voted 3-0 on first reading for an ordinance to establish the policy that
many other states like Indiana have already adopted. Under it, County
employees and elected officials would be prohibited from soliciting or
accepting gratuities of anything valued at $50 or more from consultants or
other parties in contractor agreements, said County Attorney Scott McClure.
McClure said forms
of this policy have been put together at the federal level and have trickled
down to municipalities. Conflict of interest policies are being required in
order to receive matching funds from the federal government that the County
would receive for projects through state agencies like the Indiana
Department of Transportation, he said.
President Jeff Good, R-Center, said that he agrees with the ordinance and
not just on the merit that it is being required by the federal government.
“I think it’s just
good business,” he said.
“I agree,” said
Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South.
Kunstek and Josh Weger of the Indiana, Illinois and Iowa Foundation for Fair
Contracting (IIIFFC) came to give the Commissioners a presentation on
reasons they recommend the County adopt a Responsive Bidder Ordinance, or
has been in existence for 20 years but not until recently have RDOs become a
growing trend, Weger said. IIIFFC has helped 14 counties in Indiana, 25 in
Illinois and seven in Iowa. The mission is to increase market share for
contractors, increase hours for workers and drive value for taxpayers.
“We are here to
help you in any way improve the value of public works construction to your
taxpayers and government,” Weger told the Commissioners.
By law, governments
are to award contracts to the lowest responsible bidder, Weger said, but an
RDO can put in standards and expectations, allowing for local control.
IIIFFC’s model RDO
suggests that governments ask for bidding companies to provide documentation
that they are licensed to do work within the state, that they participate in
apprentice and training programs, have evidence of a drug testing plan for
workers, include resume information of project managers
and superintendents, proof of any professional or trade licenses, have
surety coverage, disclosure of any tax liens or delinquencies in the last
five years, attest that workers on the project will be properly classified
and give a list of projects of similar size and scope they have performed in
the last three years.
Everything that the
bidders submit would be subject to the Open Door law, the IIIFFC model RDO
recommends, and their information can be pre-qualified for up to one year.
The RDO could also apply to subcontractors as well as primary, Weger said.
frequently asked, Weger said, is whether RDOs increase costs. There has been
no research that suggests costs rise because of an RDO, he said, but cost
overruns could happen when bad contractors are hired.
“I believe that an
RBO saves you money because you have that protection plan in place,” said
Biggs, R-North, said he likes the prospect of having an RDO because he has
seen occasions in Porter County Government where the lowest bidder turned
out to be a bad scenario. He said he is surprised that only 36 counties in
three states have adopted such ordinances.
Weger said the RDO
movement is trending more strongly now. LaPorte, Starke, St. Joseph and Lake
counties in Indiana all have adopted RBOs in the last two years, he said.
“It’s growing faster than we can keep track of,” he said.
Good said the
Commissioners will take IIIFFC’s information under consideration as they
customize an ordinance in the future. Blaney said a lot of the parts
mentioned in the presentation were part of the process the new Animal
Shelter was built through, but she would like to see these policies be on
Appraisal of former
Weger said in his
presentation that the RDO could be useful as the Commissioners pursue their
proposed $30 million capital improvement plan.
A plan was unveiled
by the Commissioners to Porter County Council last month that included
purchasing the former County Jail building at 157 Franklin St. in
Valparaiso. The space could be used to expand County offices, Good said.
The Council had
given the Commissioners permission, on a 7-0 vote, to seek appraisals on the
building. The Commissioners on Tuesday approved contracts with Vale
Appraiser Group, of Merrillville, and David Waszak Appraisals, of Niles,
Mich. to conduct appraisals in the next 30 days.
Also approved was a
letter of engagement with attorney James D. Shanahan of Taft Law to be the
bond counsel as the Commissioners explore the option of bonding for the
capital improvement plan as well as projects by the Stormwater Management
votes, the Commissioners reappointed Valparaiso resident Paul Chael as their
representative on the Porter County Regional Airport Authority Board over a
second applicant and named County IT Director Don Wellsand to the Sick Bank
chairs the Airport board and Blaney and Biggs commended him for keeping the
airport operating well with the new runway project.
Director Lori Daly thanked the County Facilities and Highway departments for
their help with numerous projects in preparation for the Porter County Fair,
which runs this next week from July 20 to July 29. Daly said more than
150,000 people are expected to attend this year.
premiums for building liability and liquor liability premiums netted a
savings for the Expo Center. The Commissioners approved a recommendation to
transfer $4,000 from the savings to building maintenance and office
Other approvals by
-- An amendment for
the Jail’s food service contract with CBM Managed Services that includes a
price index increase of three percent was accepted as well as renewal of the
annual contract with Autoclear for x-ray screening systems at the
-- The Memorial
Opera House will renew its license and maintenance agreement with Boyce
Systems at $842 for its Key-Ledger accounting system.
-- The County
Administration Building garage will be available for parking during the
Valparaiso Popcorn Festival on Saturday, Sept. 9 for $10 per space.
-- Ind. 49 will be
closed from CR 300 South to CR 400 South for the Malden Labor Day Parade at
noon on Monday, Sept. 4.
-- Payment #10 will
be made to Larson Danielson Construction for $51,143 for the new Animal
-- A supplemental
agreement was approved for the Department of Development and Stormwater
Management to have consultants inspect bridges in the county that have
fallen short of sufficiency criteria. Department Director Robert Thompson
said 20 bridges out of 126 have to be inspected on a yearly basis instead of
every other year, according to INDOT standards. He hopes to have five of the
bridges corrected enough that they can be taken off the list for next year.