Board agrees cheapest isn't always best

By Greg Gelpi

Plans to revamp the school system's bidding process, one that didn't pass in December, garnered unanimous support Monday night.

The Clayton County Board of Education approved "mandatory prequalification," which will enable the school system to use criteria other than price in selecting contractors.

The measure failed for lack of a second when brought before the previous board in December, but the new board approved the motion brought to the board by school system Superintendent Barbara Pulliam.

Prior to casting a vote for the measure, LaToya Walker and others on the board wanted to ensure that the board would provide "guidance" to the school system in selecting the criteria that will be used in selecting contractors and amended the motion to state this. School board input had been a stumbling block when mandatory prequalification was originally introduced.

Board Chairwoman Ericka Davis had expressed concern when mandatory prequalification was initially proposed to the school board that the board wouldn't have input into the criteria if the board opened the way for additional criteria.

To help formulate the criteria, the school board also amended the motion to agree to establish an ad hoc committee of community members with people from each board member's school district, a concern of board member Lois Baines Hunter.

Although the criteria for prequalification haven't been drafted, Director of Purchasing Brian Miller said they will more than likely include questions regarding minority and female participation, although the school system can't require a contractor to submit such information.

Other requested information could include work history, history of any litigation and completed projects, Miller said.

Pulliam had enlisted the services of construction attorney Al Philips in bringing the proposal to the school board.

Philips explained previously that mandatory prequalification would weed out many undesirable contractors, since often times the cheapest bidder often produces the cheapest quality work.