by Carol Thompson
Last year, Oswego County taxpayers spent $182,512 for HVAC maintenance at the county’s office buildings and facilities. Syracuse-based Postle and Jaeckle received the contract award for $82,980, but how the bid was awarded and who awarded it has raised questions.
According to records provided by the county under the Freedom of Information Law, the request to go out to bid for HVAC maintenance was made “11/00/11.” The specifications were finalized Nov. 22, 2011 and the advertisement for bids was released Nov. 26, 2011.
The bid opening was held Dec. 12, 2011 and the evaluation was completed “12/00/11.” The bid was awarded to Postle and Jaeckle Dec. 20, 2011 and Mary Watson, of the county purchasing department, signed off on the award sheet Jan. 4, 2012.
The bid never went before the Legislature’s Infrastructure and Facilities Committee for approval. There is no indication in the meeting minutes that the bid award was discussed.
The committee has oversight of the Building and Grounds Department; the department responsible for maintenance at all county facilities.
At the time of the contract award, then-Purchasing Director Fred Maxon had been out of work due to illness. The contract award sheet, which is to be initialed by the purchasing director, county attorney, county administrator and legislature chairman, shows County Administrator Phil Church initialed in lieu of Maxon. County Attorney Richard Mitchell initialed the contract sheet and the initials “PC” are noted in the space for the legislature chairman, who at that time was Barry Leemann.
At issue is who had the proper authority to award a bid autonomously, if the contract could be awarded without committee approval.
When the Valley News first raised the question, Legislature Clerk Wendy Falls said that the bid was awarded without committee approval under the county’s cleansing resolution, which allows the chairman and the legislature clerk to take care of end-of-the-year business.
But that resolution, according to former chairmen and county officials, does not include the awarding of bids that must be approved by committees or the legislature as a whole.
Church said that the bid was awarded under New York State County Law, section 625, “and subsequent court decisions and comptroller opinions that allow the county purchasing agent to award contracts.”
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