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Council debates rules regarding low bids

The Park Rapids City Council accepted a low bid for a new squad car from Walker Ford, even though it was just $100 less than the local Park Rapids Ford bid.

City officials say the city's hands are tied because of the city's ordinance.

"The last squad car was purchased in 2007 and they're all well beyond 100,000 miles," said police chief Terry Eilers.

He requested bids for a 2011 Ford Crown Victoria squad car.

The Park Rapids Ford bid came in at $23,830.64 and the Walker Ford bid came in at $23,725.64. The car is part of the city's Capital Improvement Plan.

He recommended the city accept the Park Rapids Ford bid because it was within about $100 and the department has worked with the local business before.

"It's easy for our guys to just swing in there for something quickly," Eilers said.

City administrator Bill Smith said it made him nervous to accept the bid because it isn't the lowest.

"I'd rather buy local too but unless someone has some experience and expertise that says differently, I think we need to ask the question, 'are we about to ask for trouble if we don't accept the lowest bid?'" Smith said.

Councilwoman Sue Tomte asked if the city could ask Park Rapids Ford to match the Walker Ford price.

Smith said that also made him nervous and he didn't think the city could do that.

This isn't the first time a question has been asked about choosing a local bidder over the low bidder.

Last October, the council awarded a bid for the new municipal liquor store sign to a Fargo-based company, passing over a local sign company. In that case, Larry Engel, owner of Engel Sign Company, said the city should have gone with his bid.

Smith said he would feel more comfortable if the attorneys were asked about the legality of accepting the local bid over the low bid.

The city's ordinance says the award should be to the lowest responsible quote or bid as defined in Minnesota state law, said city treasurer Angela Brumbaugh.

Eilers said he would rather go with the low bid than make a call to the attorneys for much more than $100.

The council decided to accept the low bid from Walker Ford.

In other business, the council:

n Approved a balanced 2011 General Fund budget at $2,549,884 in revenues and $2,549,884 in expenses.

n Adopted the 2011 Property Tax Levy at $2,359,686, with $1,482,245 for the General Fund. This is the maximum amount the city can levy.

Tomte said the council should develop a strategic plan for the next several years. Often, the council looks at immediate needs and it should be looking at the big picture, she said.

She thought the council could meet for a planning session with a facilitator, such as Cliff Tweedale, with the Headwaters Regional Development Commission.

n Set the Truth in Taxation hearing for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 30. The location is to be determined based on availability.

n Accepted the resignation of Dave Neisen as the city's building inspector. He had been with the city of Park Rapids for more than seven years. The position will be advertised to fill as soon as possible.

n Accepted a low quote of $2,795 from Management Information Solutions for a DVR unit for Rapids Spirits contingent upon being the correct equipment for the site. The liquor store manager, Scott Olson, said he is still talking with the business to make sure the equipment will work property at the liquor store. If it isn't the right system, the council agreed to go with the second lowest bid of $3,120 from Electro Watchman, Inc.

The equipment is used as a video recording device for surveillance of the store. The current equipment has failed and can't be repaired due to its age.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561