Ann Arbor voters could change the way the city awards big contracts


ANN ARBOR, MI – Voters in Ann Arbor could be asked in November to agree to changes to the city’s bidding process for the city’s contract award.

City council member Jen Eyer, D-4th Ward, announced that she plans to present a resolution at the next council meeting to put a city charter amendment on the ballot.

“This will aim to align the charter with the council’s construction procurement policy,” she said. “As many people know and others do not, our charter currently requires that every contract for public improvements or supplies and materials be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder.”

This prevents the city from fully implementing a responsible contractor policy approved by the council last year, Eyer said.

“The responsible contractor policy, of course, gives city staff a framework to gather important information from bidders, regarding things like worker skills and training, quality of work, site safety and more, ”she said.

This information must then be evaluated to determine which bidder offers the best value for the city, Eyer said.

“I like to compare it to buying a car,” she said. “Most people don’t automatically just buy the cheapest car that can get them from point A to point B. Most people assess a whole range of factors that are important to them and then choose the vehicle that best balances cost with desired cost. features. So this is the process that was established in policy by the board last year, but which is largely precluded from being put into practice by our current charter language.

Eyer warned his fellow councilors last week that his proposal was coming. She said she was still finalizing the language and was accepting any questions.

Mayor Christopher Taylor said he was working with Eyer on the subject and would sponsor him.

“Ann Arbor needs to be able to contract with suppliers who treat their workers well and deliver great value to taxpayers,” Taylor said.

Council member Elizabeth Nelson, D-4th Ward, said she waits until she sees the language before making up her mind. She strongly supported efforts to further define “responsible bidder” because “lowest bidder” does not encapsulate everything the city is aiming for in contracts, she said.

However, the charter requirement targets fiscal responsibility, which should be important to the community, she said. She hopes the city can be more strategic about the contracts it awards while recognizing that it won’t waste public funds on more expensive contracts without justification, she said.

The city charter currently states: “Except in the cases provided for by the ordinance authorized by article 14.2 of this chapter, each contract for public improvements or supplies or materials is awarded to the lowest responsible bidder after an opportunity reasonable competitive bidding. “

He further specifies: “The Board may reject all or part of the offers if it deems it appropriate. If all bids are rejected, or if no bids are received, the council may obtain new bids or authorize the city administrator to negotiate in the open market for a contract at a reasonable price, or to buy on the free market, or to get work done by city employees.

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