Concern over the lack of competition for an equipment purchase

The Butler County Commission faced a hard decision on Tuesday morning while opening bids for a truck chassis for a spray rig for the Noxious Weed Department.
After opening the only bid available, the commissioners began to show some concern over the lack of competition for the purchase.
"It's getting pretty tough," began Public Works Director Darryl Lutz. "I don't think there is a large margin of profit in these types of vehicles and sometimes vendors in the county choose to just not mess with bidding them."
"Is it just the cab of the truck or is it more than that?" asked Commissioner Mike Wheeler.
"It is just the cab," answered Lutz. "I'm frustrated with the whole situation. Before we sent out for bids, I spoke with several area dealerships and they assured me they would complete a bid and send it in, but only one actually did. We can go back out for bids now, but it will only be more work for us. I don't know where to draw the line and just accept what we received."
The commission, concerned with the lack of bids, further weighed their options.
"Did you only open for bids in Butler County?" asked Commissioner Peggy Palmer.
"Yes, as a general rule we only receive bids from the local area, but maybe next time we can open the bids up to Wichita and see if we get a few more," Lutz said.
"The good thing about going out for bids out of the county as well is we will get a comparison for good bids and bad bids so that we can get the lowest bids," said Palmer. "We don't have a bid to compare this one to."
"Most dealerships tell us that they only make $200 to $300 profit on these types of vehicles," said Lutz. "They have a government pricing they use, but the question is: what part of this for them is really worth going through all this process? John K. Fisher bids on this just to try to make sure there is at least one bid from the county."
"I don't think it's fair to the person who did all the work to submit a bid to give the other bidders another opportunity either," added Commissioner Jeff Masterson.
The bidding process now has become vastly different than the bidding process in recent years.
"At one point, we had six dealerships all under different ownerships in Butler County," said Lutz. "Now we're down to three dealerships."
"I think that we need to try to assure that we have some degree of competitiveness when we're going out for bids," added Commissioner Ed Myers. "If it gets to the point where we simply don't have the competition, then I think we do need to consider opening up the bidding process to the larger, yet somewhat localized, area."
"Philosophically, I agree," said Lutz. "In this process so far, we have sent bids to four dealerships and as far as those people know when they put these together, they are bidding against someone else. I think if we get down to the point where it's one bid coming in, we should do that."
Now the commissioners are forced to make a decision of what to do in future circumstances.
"I’ve always liked the idea of doing business with Butler County taxpayers," said Wheeler, "but John K. Fisher bid. We know he didn’t know the Parks and the Chevrolet dealers were not going to bid."
"I would of course like to do business in Butler County too, but we do still have to have a competitive part of that program," said Commissioner Peggy Palmer.
"I feel good about the bid, but I think I’m aligned with all of you," said Lutz. "It does come from a competitive environment to make sure it meets all of the specs we sent out."
Myers moved to accept the bid and the motion was carried 5-0.
The commission also:
• received a quarterly investment of idle funds report as of June 30.
• approved the award of bids for the annual tire purchase for the Public Works Department in the amount of $67,403.
• approved the purchase of sign materials for use by the Highway Department in the amount of $16,249.71.
• received and opened sealed bids for the two planned bridge replacement projects on NW River Valley Road between Towanda and Potwin.
• approved the acceptance of annual paint bids.
• completed a work session on the 2015 Butler County Budget.