Written by Jill Nossa Friday, 06 November 2009 00:00
The Glen Cove Board of Education held a special meeting this week to provide contractors and the public more detailed information on how to bid on construction projects. Attorney Carrie Anne Tondo from the law firm Ingerman Smith, L.L.P. presented the facts in the Middle School Mini Center, while the board held their Executive Session downstairs. After disappointment on the track project and questions arising as a result of the bus yard proposal, residents have pushed for the school to encourage more bids and more local bidders.
Before the presentation began, Superintendent Dr. Laurence Aronstein explained that the purpose of the informal public meeting was to “demystify the bidding process” for contractors. The 45-minute long presentation covered topics from an overview of the school district construction process to a breakdown of what is contained in a project manual, to actually submitting a bid on a project.
As explained by Ms. Tondo, the bidding process for a school district construction project can take anywhere from 8 weeks to 6 months, depending on the scope of the project. The district must first secure funding for the project, either by school funding or by a bond referendum, and then must obtain a design of the project by a licensed architect or engineer. Once the plans have been approved by the New York State Education Department, an advertisement for bids is placed in the newspaper. According to Ms. Tondo, all bid advertisements for the Glen Cove School District are placed in the official newspaper (which alternates between the Record Pilot and the Gold Coast Gazette). By law, all contracts must be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder. For construction projects, any project over $20,000 is required to undergo competitive bidding.
The presentation covered the basics of what a contractor can expect to find in a project manual, with Ms. Tondo explaining that the size of the manual itself will vary, depending on the specific project.
At the conclusion of the presentation, the board members returned to help answer questions. A gentleman raised his hand and said, “For all the attorneys in the room, you did a wonderful job. As a contractor, I didn’t understand a word of what you just said. It’s just not feasible for a local contractor to follow these guidelines, in a short timeframe.”
“As discussed, the purpose of the meeting is to break down the bidding process to contractors so that they can be better equipped to place bids on projects in the future,” Ms. Tondo responded. “In some cases, five days may be all the time the district has to award a bid, depending on the nature of the project.”
Another contractor in the audience, responding to the first man’s question, said, “It is very daunting, but the school district doesn’t have a choice, these guidelines must be followed. You shouldn’t be discouraged.”
When asked how this bidding process could save the district money, board member David Huggins responded, “We’re saving the municipality and the taxpayers money by opening up the process to local contractors.”
“It is to the district’s benefit to have more bids, the purpose is to put everyone on a competitive level playing field,” a local contractor tried to help further explain.
Another community member wanted to know who makes the final decision on awarding a bid, suggesting that a certain amount of bias could be involved.
“Ultimately, the decision is determined by the board,” Ms. Tondo said. “It is not a subjective decision, but based on the bids presented to them.”