Bid process gets second chance with new board

By Greg Gelpi

A measure to change the bid process failed to get approval from the previous Clayton County Board of Education, but is getting a second chance with a new school board.

The proposal would allow the school system to accept bids other than low bids when awarding contracts. It failed for lack of a second at the previous board's final meeting, which was held in December.

The new school board with five new members will revisit the issue at its next board meeting set for Feb. 7. The resolution being presented to the school board will be "very very similar, if not identical" to the resolution that failed to garner support last month from the board, Director of Purchasing Brian Miller said.

"It is our hope that they will endorse the process," he said.

The process is being brought back to the board at the request of the new board through the superintendent, Miller said.

The proposed bid process of "mandatory prequalification" wouldn't replace the school system's existing process of "design-bid-build," but would add another tool for the school system to use, Miller said.

"It would reduce our risk of getting an unscrupulous contractor," Miller said.

As it is, it's "tradition" that the school system asks for information from contractors, such as references, bonding and insurance capabilities and contractor experience "more after the fact," Miller said. Through prequalification, the school system could obtain that information before awarding a contract. Prequalified contractors, those that meet "preset criteria," would then be allowed to bid on school system contracts.

The proposed process would be employed where appropriate depending on factors, such as the size and timeliness of the project, he said.

Greg Morgan, an Atlanta construction attorney, was hired by the school system to advise and consult with the school system on the proposed bid process changes.

Morgan told the board in December that "design-bid-build" often produces the cheapest bidder in quality as well as in price.

Although board members didn't indicate at the time specific reasons for not approving the changes, board member Connie Kitchens questioned how different it would be to the school system's existing bid process and then board member Bob Livingston questioned Morgan's role in the proposal and what he would gain.

Superintendent Barbara Pulliam had said previously that with the passing of a new Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax the school system should review its bid process and consider minority and female-owned businesses and the number of local of subcontractors used by a contractor.