County Bids

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 23, 2010

County will re-bid after company balks

By Billy Davis

The Panola County Board of Supervisors put the brakes on accepting a bid Monday when a competing bidder complained of unfair practice.  

The required specifications for a backhoe loader were so narrow that competing machinery was excluded, Stribling Equipment representative Allen Holmes claimed at the recess meeting in Batesville.

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The county board had assembled to complete a bid opening that was held the previous week.

Before Holmes spoke, Panola County road manager Lygunnah Bean told supervisors he preferred a Caterpillar brand, bid by Thompson Machinery, for $88,225.

Stribling, a John Deere dealer, had bid $81,000.  

Bean said the warranty for the John Deere offered 2,500 fewer hours than the Caterpillar warranty.

“I have an issue with the height of the John Deere and the bucket reaching the truck,” he said, referring to clearance for road department dump trucks.  

Holmes then noted that the bid description had failed to request a warranty or a bucket for the backhoe, though both were included on Thompson’s competing bid.

Stribling, prior to the Monday bid opening, had added the warranty and a bucket, adding $5,373 to its original bid.  

 “By law I am the lowest bid,” Holmes told Bean and the county board.

 “You need to re-bid it,” board attorney Bill McKenzie immediately said after Holmes mentioned state law.

Bean, however, sought to explain that Stribling’s equipment bid included “15 items that did not meet the specs.”

 “That’s correct,” Holmes replied. “There’s only one bid that can meet the specs.”

The county board, heeding McKenzie’s advice, voted unanimously to advertise for new bids for the backhoe.

“I will make the specs as generic as possible,” Bean told supervisors.

That proposal may prove challenging, however, since bidding for equipment is a “tedious process,” County Administrator Kelley Magee said after the meeting.

Magee, who oversees Solid Waste, said she faced a similar challenge when she requested bids for new county garbage trucks. That process required research into specifications, then a precise description of what trucks Solid Waste was seeking to buy.  

“Any time you bid on heavy equipment, you’ve got to start with some sort of specs,” she explained.

If Stribling had followed Bean’s specs more closely, Magee said, its equipment bid likely would have jumped up in price, knocking it out of competition.

Specifications for the backhoe lined nine pages and numbered more than 100 individual requirements for the engine, hydraulic system, power train and transmission, and cab, among other demands.

Because the bid process was restarting, supervisors also voted to table the sale of used equipment, which had been approved earlier in the meeting.

Supervisors also approved, without a dispute, the purchase of an excavator from Thompson Machinery at a cost of $179,966. That bid easily beat Stribling Equipment, which had bid $213,000.