The Examiner U-46 News Feed
District U-46 updated on project bidding data
By Seth Hancock
The Board of Education in School District U-46 was updated on the district’s process for bidding out projects and contracts at its meeting on Monday, Sept. 9. Board member Eva Porter was absent from the meeting.
Bruce Phelps, senior business official, said that in the 2018-2019 school year there were a total of 57 bids and requests for proposal (RFP) published. The board approved $76.3 million in bid and RFP proposals and $18.8 million in contracts.
The board’s policy, under Section 4.060, states that board approval is required on expenditures $25,000 and up, but Phelps said: “There are items that are exempt to this, and they’re outlined in the actual board policy.”
Additionally, the policy states: “Any repair, maintenance, remodeling, renovation, or single project that exceeds $50,000.00 will also apply to the bidding requirements.”
There are five stages to the bid process including creation, publishing, public opening and review, board presentation and awarding stages. Additionally, there is a special requirement stage for some projects concerning prevailing wages, a minimum wage requirement set by unions rather than market forces.
“Most of our construction projects require a prevailing wage,” said Phelps who added that construction contractors must submit certified payroll to the district in order to verify the prevailing wage was paid.
Phelps noted that during the public opening and review stage that bids are now submitted and opened publicly through electronic means as opposed to opening sealed bids via envelopes except for construction projects.
“The only difference would be is that any construction is still required to be a sealed bid envelope,” Phelps said. “We are not allowed to do it electronically. We publish it electronically, but we cannot open it electronically.”
Sue Kerr, the board’s president, asked why the construction bids must be sealed and Phelps said: “It’s a state requirement.”
During the publishing stage the district sometimes holds a pre-meeting with vendors and board member Melissa Owens asked if those meetings were required.
“It’s not legally required,” Phelps said. “What we do is we try to have pre-meetings on some of the more complicated projects.”
Phelps said the pre-meetings allow the district to explain the verbiage within its proposal, and “sometimes we’re also venturing in an area where we’re not too aware of what is going on.”
“It’s kind of nice to have the pre-meeting because we can hear what they have to say, and questions that they might have, that we might have to send out an addendum from that to get a better return on what the information we are requesting back,” Phelps said.
Board member Kate Thommes asked who attends the pre-meetings to which Phelps said district staff along with any vendor that pulls the bid can attend. He noted that some of the pre-meetings are required for vendors to attend which the district will note within its RFP.
Phelps said that all open and active bids, as well as past bids, can be found at the business services section on the district’s website, u-46.org. The link to the electronic website, Bonfire, the district uses to post RFPs is also on the website.
All questions asked by bidders are answered and posted publicly, Phelps said. Board member Donna Smith asked where the answers are posted and Phelps said all bidders are emailed and they can be found on Bonfire by anyone who is registered.
Board member John Devereux said there were several RFPs last year that received only one bidder. He said “it was because it’s a good, strong economy where there’s more work than vendors available,” but asked what the district is doing to increase the number of bidders.
“We hope to improve that,” Phelps said. “With the capital planning, we have 15 vendors that are bidding on it…. That was a very good turnout.”
Phelps said that this school year, the district will be going out to bid on construction projects earlier than prior years.
Devereux also asked if the district receives feedback on if U-46 is a “good customer,” and Phelps said “we have a policy of third-day turnaround of our invoices” with vendors and “they’re not carrying that debt for a long period of time.” Phelps added that the district receives “a lot of repeat vendors.”