Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Porter County Commissioners setting conflict of interest rules for bidding

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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.

The Commissioners 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.

Commissioner 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.

Next, Marcella 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 RBO.

The organization 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.

One question 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 Weger.

Commissioner Jim 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 the books.

Appraisal of former jail building

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 Board.

Appointments

With unanimous 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 committee.

Chael currently chairs the Airport board and Blaney and Biggs commended him for keeping the airport operating well with the new runway project.

County Fair

Expo Center 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.

Meanwhile, lower 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 supplies.

Other approvals by the Commissioners:

-- 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 Courthouse.

-- 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 Shelter.

-- 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.

 

 

Posted 7/19/2017

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

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