Auburn, schools agree on purchasing policy

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AUBURN — City and school officials are on the same page when it comes to buying equipment.

Councilors and school officials reviewed a new purchasing and procurement policy at a special City Council meeting Wednesday night. The policy was later adopted by the City Council by a 6-0 vote.

City Manager Clinton Deschene said the policy is similar to purchasing policies in other cities, except it is the same for both the city and the schools.

“That’s what’s unique,” Deschene said. “The joint approach between the city and the schools. Otherwise, I think you’ll find it’s very consistent with policies in other cities and the state.”

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According to the new policy, department managers can spend up to $1,000 of their budgets to buy supplies or equipment at their own discretion. Department managers need at least three verifiable price quotes to buy equipment or supplies costing up to $24,999.

They’re required to submit request-for-proposal bids for anything costing $25,000 or more. Those bids will be managed by the city’s purchasing manager or by the School Department’s business manager.

The new policy replaces one created by former City Manager Glenn Aho in 2011. He did away with a purchasing supervisor. Department heads were given authority to buy items costing up to $3,000. They needed three bids and approval from the city manager to buy equipment that cost up to $49,000.

Councilors last spring objected to that policy, saying it gave staff too much latitude to spend. They voted to hire a new purchasing manager and formed a committee to draft a new purchasing policy for all city departments, including the schools.

Councilor Belinda Gerry said she was concerned the new policy was still to generous when it comes to requiring bids.

“How does the public know that we want to purchasing something unless we go out to a competitive bid?” she said. “I just have trouble going over $10,000, $15,000 before we go out for a competitive bid.”

But Councilors Leroy Walker and Mary Lafontaine said the policy was sufficient.

“We’ve had the same policy like this in front of us for many years, and we’ve always gotten three, four, five quotes,” said Walker, a former Auburn Recreation Department superintendent. “Most employees know who the local suppliers, are and they know what’s required and how to do it properly.”

staylor@sunjournal.com

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