ST. LAWRENCE COUNTY
PURCHASING
POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
 
Revised January 2, 2008
 
I.   Introduction
 
The mission of the St. Lawrence County Purchasing Department is to reduce the cost of County Government, and to foster public confidence in County Government. This is accomplished through the administration of a purchasing process that fosters competition, impartiality, and openness of the process.
 
The term Purchasing is perceived by many as another word for "buying." And, while this is true, Public Purchasing is much more. It is a comprehensive program that includes procurement of equipment and supplies, inventory management, disposition of surplus property, and contracting for various services needed in the operation of County Government. The responsibilities necessary to conduct a successful Central Purchasing Program call for initiative, sound decision making, and a proactive approach to finding solutions to problems.
 
The following Policies and Procedures are based on GML 103 and GML 104-B, and have been approved by the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators.
 
II. Purchasing Policy
 
A.     The Purchasing Agent shall be responsible for developing and administering the purchasing program for St. Lawrence County.
 
B.      The St. Lawrence County purchasing procedures shall comply with all applicable laws and regulations of the State and County.
 
C.      The Purchasing Agent shall procure supplies, equipment and services as needed at the best possible prices, and maintain adequate records to show that this was done.
 
D.     It is the goal of St. Lawrence County to procure environmentally preferable products when practical. These are products that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment, when compared to other products or services that serve the same purpose.  To facilitate reaching this goal, specifications should be developed when practical for equipment and capital purchases that reflect this goal by utilizing best life-cycle costs (The comprehensive accounting of the total cost of ownership, including initial costs, energy and operational costs, longevity and efficacy of service and disposal cost).
 
E.      An opportunity shall be provided to all responsible suppliers to do business with the County. To this end the purchasing department shall develop and maintain lists of potential bidders or vendors for the various types of materials, equipment and supplies. Such list shall be used in the development of a mailing list for distribution of specifications, invitations to bid, and obtaining quotes. Any supplier may be included in the list upon request.
 
F.      When soliciting bids a statement of "General Specifications and Requirements" shall be included with all specifications submitted to suppliers. These general specifications and requirements shall be incorporated in all contracts awarded for the purchase of materials, equipment and supplies.
 
G.     The purchasing department shall issue purchase orders after first determining that unencumbered balances of budgetary appropriations are adequate to cover such obligations.
 
H.     No official or employee shall be interested financially in any contract entered into by the County. This also precludes acceptance of gratuities, financial or otherwise, by the above persons, from any suppliers of materials or services to the County.
 
I.        Real Property or Capital Equipment must be purchased through the Purchasing department.
 
J.       Bids or Quotations obtained from vendors shall be used for no longer than one year for subsequent purchases.
 
K.     All requisitions for computer hardware and software must be approved by the Director of Central Services before the items may be purchased.
 
L.      When two or more responsible bidders who have met the specifications, and have furnished the required security, submit bids or quotations identical in price, preference in the award shall be given to a local St. Lawrence County vendor.  If the tie involves multiple St. Lawrence County vendors, lots will be drawn among the St. Lawrence County vendors to determine the award.  For purposes of this section, a St. Lawrence County vendor is defined as a business in which the majority of the ownership of the business is by persons whose primary residence is in the County of St. Lawrence, State of New York. If the tie does not involve any St. Lawrence County vendors, lots will be drawn among the bidders who submitted the tie bids or quotations to determine the award.
 
III. Purchasing Procedures
 
A.     The material, equipment, supplies and/or services to be purchased shall be of the quality and in the quantity required to serve the function in a satisfactory manner, as determined by the requisitioner and the purchasing agent.
 
B.      It is the responsibility of the requisitioner to provide an adequate description of items needed so that the purchasing agent may be able to prepare the specifications to procure the desired commodity and/or service. The requisitioner will assist the purchasing agent in the preparation of specifications.
 
C.      Standard lists of commonly used items shall be jointly developed for all categories or groups of supplies by the purchasing agent and the appropriate requisitioners. These lists shall be used as a basis for determining the feasibility of obtaining quotations on quantity purchases or the necessity of advertising for formal bids. They shall also be used as a basis for requisitioning.
 
D.     It is the responsibility of the purchasing agent to make alternative suggestions to the requisitioner, and if, in the judgment of the purchasing agent, the specifications restrict competition or otherwise preclude the intent of these Policies and Procedures, the Purchasing Agents decision shall be final.
 
E.      When a low bidder proposes an alternative as "an equal" to that specified, it is the responsibility of the purchasing agent to determine whether the proposed substitution is in fact, an equal.
 
IV. Purchase Order Process
 
A. Requisitioning Process: Requisitioning is formally requesting that a purchase be made. It is the first step in the Purchase Order Process. The requisition is generated by the using department and must contain the following information.
 
  1. Date of Requisition.
  2. Name of Department and account number to be charged with the encumbrance.
  3. Quantity required.
  4. Description
  5. Authorized Signature
  6. Estimated Cost (If available)
  7. Vendor and price information (If previously bid or quoted)
 
B. Processing the Requisition: When the requisition is received in the Purchasing Department it will be verified for accuracy, departmental authorization and sufficiency of the budgetary appropriation. A Purchase Order is then generated utilizing the following procedure.
 
  1. Method of competition (i.e. competitive bidding, quotation, state contract, etc.) is determined utilizing the procedures outlined in these Policies and Procedures.
  2. Based upon the method of competition, a vendor is selected for the goods or service and a Purchase Order is generated.
  3. The Purchase Order is authorized by the Purchasing Agent.
  4. The Purchase Order is sent to the successful vendor, and a copy is sent to the requisitioning department as a confirmation that the order has been placed.
 
C. Receipt of Goods or Services: When the supplies or services are received/rendered it is important that the requisitioning department compare packing slips, delivery slips, or work orders to the department copy of the Purchase Order. This insures that the department receives what was ordered. Discrepancies should be brought to the attention of the Purchasing Department in a timely manner.
 
D. Authorization for Payment: When the invoices are received at the Purchasing Department and no back-orders are shown, the payment process is initiated.
 
  1. The invoices are attached to the audit copy of the Purchase Order, and sent to the requisitioning department for payment authorization. The department should not authorize payment unless all goods and/or services have been received in a satisfactory manner.
  2. The audit copy is then returned to the Purchasing Department, where it is checked for accuracy and forwarded to the Audit Department for payment.
  3. Departments should reconcile their Purchase Orders with the transaction register generated by the Data Processing Department to ensure that the correct amount was paid, and that it was charged to the correct account.
 
Note: Changes in the paperwork flow may be authorized by the Purchasing Agent, if such changes are deemed in the best interest of the County and do not depart from the intent of the policy.
 
E. Exceptions to the Purchase Order System: There are a limited number of situations where the processing of a purchase order is unnecessary. The use of a Purchase Order in these circumstances would lead to unnecessary paperwork, and would detract from the effectiveness of the system. A county voucher is acceptable for use under these circumstances.
 
  1. Contracts for professional services. Any encumbrance should be on the basis of written contracts.
  2. Employee expenses such as conference expenses, mileage and other reimbursable expenses in performance of day to day duties.
  3. Reimbursement of petty cash funds.
  4. The purchase of authorized books and periodicals.
  5. Utility Bills.
  6. Service contracts for a fixed monthly or annual amount.
  7. Interdepartmental charges.
  8. Medical Examinations.
  9. Postage meter costs.
 
F. Standing Orders: A standing purchase order is an order issued to a vendor for purchase of items considered to be of immediate need or for the purpose of consolidating purchasing of items that have been previously bid. The Standing Order system allows County Departments to operate efficiently without having to go through the requisition process for small purchases, or for items which have been previously bid. Standing Orders are not to be used to bypass the Purchase Order System.
  1. Standing Purchase orders are issued in January of each year (or during the year if a new need arises.), and are good through the end of December. Purchases are audited for payment on a monthly basis.
  2. Equipment assets may not be purchased via the standing order system.
  3. Standing Orders are not to be used for "stocking purposes." All volume purchasing is to be done by the Purchasing Department.
  4. The Purchasing Department will review all Standing Order purchases in an effort to determine where quotes should be obtained or where the bidding process can be used in an attempt to lower the cost of goods and services purchased by the County.
  5. Departments that believe they have a need for a Standing Purchase Order should send the Purchasing Office a completed requisition form requesting a Standing Order and provide written justification for the need.
 
V. Procedures for Determining Whether Procurements are Subject to Bidding
 
 
A.     The procedures for determining whether a procurement of goods and services is subject to competitive bidding and documenting the basis for any determination that competitive bidding is not required by law is as follows.
 
  1. Determine whether it is expected that over the course of the fiscal year, St. Lawrence County will spend in excess of the competitive bidding thresholds for the same or similar items or services (e.g. checking budgetary appropriations; prior year's expenditures).
  2. Determine whether an item is available from correctional institutions (Corcraft), Industries for the Blind, Industries for the Disabled, or under State or County Contract.
  3. In the case of an emergency, determine whether the following three statutory criteria are met.
    a) The situation arises out of an accident or other unforeseen occurrence or condition.
    b) The circumstances affects public buildings, public property or the life, health, safety or property of the residents of St. Lawrence County.
    c) The situation requires immediate action which cannot await competitive bidding.
    Because the emergency must arrive out of an accident or unforeseen occurrence, the emergency exception may not be used in a situation, which is the result of inaction or dilatory behavior on the part of the using department.
  4. In the case of a sole source, a determination must be made that the item is required in the public interest, has no reasonable equivalent, and is in fact available from one source.
  5. In the case of a combination of professional services and a purchase, a         determination must be made as to whether the professional service is the predominate part of the transaction and is inextricably integrated with the purchase.
  6. Situations involving legal issues regarding the applicability of         competitive bidding requirements must be presented to the County Attorney for review.
 
B.  The following chart identifies categories of goods and service procurement, and whether these categories are subject to competitive bidding requirements or the requirements of General Municipal Law 104-b. Also, the location where further information can be found in subsection 8.0060 of the State Comptroller's Financial Management Guide for Local Governments is included.
 
Type or Procurement
Bidding
104-b
Subsection
Purchase Contract – Above $10,000
   X
 
8.0060, p. 1
Purchase Contract – Below $10,000
 
 X
8.0060, p. 1
Contract for Public Work – above 20,000
   X
 
8.0060, p. 1
Contract for Public Work - Below 20,000
 
 X
8.0060, p. 1
Industries for the Blind or Disabled (State Finance Law, Section 175-b)
 
 X
8.0060, p.13
Correctional Institutions (Correctional Law, Sections 184, 186)
 
 X
8.006, p. 12
State contract (GML, Section 104)
 
 X
8.0060, p. 7
County Contract (GML, Section 103)
 
 X
8.0060, p. 8
Emergencies (GML, Section 103)
 
 X
8.0060, p. 9
Sole Source (for example, patented or monopoly item)
 
 X
8.0060, p. 9
Professional Services
 
 X
8.0060, p. 12
True Leases
 
 X
8.0060, p. 11
Insurance
 
 X
8.0060, p. 17
Second-Hand Equipment From Another
Government (GML, Section 103)
 
 X
8.0060, p. 10
 
VI. Procurements Subject to Competitive Bidding
 
A.  The term "Purchase Contract" applies to the acquisition of commodities, while the term "Contract for Public Work" encompasses contracts for services, labor, or construction. If the aggregate amount to be expended in a fiscal year exceeds $10,000 for a purchase contract, or $20,000 for a contract for public work the contract must be competitively bid.
 
B.  All competitive bids solicited by St. Lawrence County must be done in Accordance with GML 103. The distinguishing characteristics of a competitive bid are as follows:
 
  1. Monetary Threshold: $10,000 for a purchase contract, and $20,000 for a contract for public work.
  2. Non-Collusion Statement: The vendor affirms that prices have been arrived at independently without collusion or knowingly being disclosed prior to bid opening. Additionally, the vendor affirms that no attempt has been made to induce any other vendor to submit, or not to submit a          bid for the purpose of restricting competition.
  3. Advertising: Legal Notices are placed in the Official Newspapers advertising the bid. At least five (5) business days must elapse between      the first publication of the notice, and the bid opening.
  4. Bid Opening: After the bids have been received, they must be opened          publicly at the specified time and place, and their contents made public.
  5. Bid Award: The bid must be awarded to the lowest dollar bidder who has complied with the specifications and is a responsible bidder.
 
VII. Methods of Competition to be used for Non-Bid Procurements
 
For Non-Bid Procurements alternative proposals or quotations for goods and services are to be secured by the use of written requests for proposals, written quotations, verbal quotations, or discretionary buying.   The following chart illustrates the type of procurement and the method to be used.
 
 
Verbal Quotes
 
Written Quotes
Reference Notes
0
3
3
 
Purchase Contracts Below 10,000
 
 
 
 
      Under $500
X
 
 
(A)
      500 - 2,499
 
X
 
(B)
      2,500 - 9,999 
 
 
X
(C)
Contracts for Public Work Below 20,000
 
 
 
 
     Under 5,000
 
X
 
(B)
     5,000 – 19,999
 
 
X
(C)
Emergencies
 
 
 
(D)
Insurance
 
 
 
(E)
Professional Services
 
 
 
(F)
True Leases
 
 
 
(G)
Second-Hand Equipment from Other Govt’s
 
 
 
(H)
Sole Source
 
 
 
(I)
 
A.      Purchases Under $500: When the annual expenditure for an item is under $500, the purchase may be made at the discretion of the Purchasing Agent without obtaining quotations. Solicitation of competition would not be cost effective for these small procurements.
 
B.      Verbal Quotations: The written record should contain at a minimum; date, item or service desired, price quoted, name of vendor, and name of vendor’s representative. The original requisition form is suitable for recording verbal quotations.
 
C.      Written Quotations: Vendors should provide at a minimum: date, description of item or details of service to be provided, price quoted, and name of contact.
 
D.      Emergencies: Even in the case of an emergency, public interest dictates that purchases are made at the lowest possible costs, seeking competition by informal solicitation of quotes or otherwise, to the extent practicable under the circumstances. Documentation must be made showing the method and extent of competition.
 
E.      Insurance: Insurance coverage is not subject to formal competitive bidding. Requests For Proposals, written or verbal quotations can serve as documentation of the process.
 
F.     Professional Services: Professional Services involve specialized expertise, use of professional judgment, and/or a high degree of creativity. They are not purchase contracts or contracts for public work, as those phrases are used in the bidding statutes, and therefore are not subject to the competitive bidding procedures. The individual or company may be chosen based on qualifications to include, but not limited to, reliability, skill, education and training, experience, demonstrated effectiveness, judgement and integrity. These qualifications are not necessarily found in the individual or company that offers the lowest price.
 
Professional or technical services shall include but not be limited to the following:
               
  1. Accounting (CPA)
  2. Architectural / Design Services
  3. Customized Software Programming Services
  4. Consultants
  5. Engineering
  6. Instructors/Teachers/Training
  7. Insurance Coverage and/or Insurance Broker
  8. Investment Management Services
  9. Laboratory Testing
  10. Legal
  11. Medical/Dental Services
 
Procedure - Contracts for professional services are made in the best interest of the County, utilizing Requests for Quotations (RFQ), Requests for Proposals (RFP) or other competitive process. The Process may consider inclusive factors such as price, staffing and suitability for needs, reliability, skill, education and training, experience, demonstrated effectiveness, judgment and integrity, and must include negotiations on a fair and equal basis. The process at minimum should include:
 
  1. A solicitation of a sufficient number of qualified firms. While this number will vary depending upon the situation, a minimum of three firms should be contacted.
  2. The needs of the County, and the desired format of the vendor’s response must be shown as clearly and as specifically as possible. If the solicitation is too general, the award process will be hampered.
  3. The method of award (i.e. quality vs. price) must be included in the solicitation. To allow for the awarding of the contract in a fair and equitable manner, the method of award must be stated as clearly as possible.
  4. The competitive process used must be approved by the Purchasing Agent. If a formal RFP is not solicited by the Purchasing Office, documentation of the process should be filed with the contract documents and be available for review.
 
Exceptions to the RFP and the competitive process are as follows. These procurements are subject to the approval of the Purchasing Agent. Departments are required to obtain approval before the process is initiated:
 
  1. Emergency Provisions: Emergency purchases pursuant to Section 103(4) of the General Municipal Law. Due to the nature of this exception, these goods or services must be purchased immediately and a delay in order to seek alternate proposals may threaten the life, health, safety, property or welfare of the residents. This section does not preclude alternate proposals if time permits.
  2. Sole Source Purchase: When it is clearly determined that there is only one vendor capable of providing a particular material or service as provided for in Sec. 103 of the General Municipal Law.
  3. Funding Source Requirements: In some cases a state or federal funding source requires a specific competitive process be utilized for the professional service elements of a project (i.e. federal pass-through highway projects). Utilizing the required process is acceptable as long as it is consistent with Sec. 103 of the General Municipal Law.
  4. Other:   The authorized dollar limits and the requirements of quotations are waived for the following exceptions, established upon a determination of operational efficiencies and economies:

a.   Vehicle and Building Maintenance Repairs including cost of repair parts (up to $5,000). This section applies to both repairs done by outside vendors, and done by County staff. This section does not apply to parts that are purchased for “stocking purchases” (i.e. oil filters, electrical outlets, etc).
b.   Maintenance and Service Contracts (up to $5,000)
c.    Other Professional Service Contracts (up to $5,000)
d.    Human Service contracts which provide Direct Professional Services to clients. These services shall include, but not be limited to the following:

i.       Agreements between the County Legislature and non-profit organizations, the federal government, or other state or local governments, including the transfer, sale or exchange of goods and/or services.
ii.      Contracts in which the nature and scope requires contracting with multiple agencies or individuals to provide the same service, or which all vendors are needed to fulfill the demand.
iii.    Set Rate Contracts - those contracts that the payment rate is set by local, state or federal agencies.
iv.    Human service contracts in which client-choice is required by state or federal guidelines. 

G. True Leases: True Leases are not subject to formal competitive bidding. Written quotations and/or a cost-benefit analysis of leasing versus purchasing can serve as documentation of the process. Leases with a purchase option at the end of the lease term are considered an installment purchase and are not a true lease.
 
H. Surplus Equipment: There is a statutory exception to competitive bidding requirements which permits the purchase of surplus and second-hand supplies, materials or equipment without competitive bidding from the Federal or State government or from any other political subdivision or public benefit corporation within the State. Documentation should include market price comparisons and name of government.
 
I. Sole Source: Documentation must be made regarding the unique benefits of the patented item as compared to other items available in the marketplace; that no other item provides substantially equivalent or similar benefits; and that, considering the benefits received, the cost of the item is reasonable, when compared to conventional methods.
 
VIII. Awards to Other Than Lowest Responsible Dollar Offerer
 
A.   All bids must be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder who meets the bid specifications. Whenever any contract is awarded to other than the lowest responsible dollar offerer the reasons such an award is in accordance with GML Section 104-b shall be documented as follows.
 
  1. Written documentation showing how the product of service deviates from the bid specifications, and the intent of the bid specifications.
  2. Written documentation showing reasons the vendor should be declared non-responsible. Documentation must be specific, and show a history of similar problems. Vendor must be given a chance to respond to these concerns before being declared non-responsible.
 
 
IX. Updating of Policies and Procedures
 
A.     The St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators shall annually review the procurement policies and procedures. The Purchasing Agent shall be responsible for conduction an annual review of the procurement policy and for an evaluation of the internal control structure established to ensure compliance with the procurement policy. This is to be done in accordance with GML 104-b. The procurement policy should also be reviewed in terms of aligning the fiscal, environmental, social, and community goals of the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators with the procurement policy.
 
X. Unintentional Failure to Comply
 
A.   The unintentional failure to comply with the provisions of GML 104-b or the St. Lawrence County procurement policies and procedures shall not be grounds to void action taken or give rise to a cause of action against St. Lawrence County or any officer or employee thereof.
 
XI. DISPOSITION OF SURPLUS EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES
 
A.     The following procedures are to be utilized to ensure that surplus equipment and supplies are sold in an equitable manner and at as fair a market price as attainable. These procedures do not apply to the sale of   County owned real property and land.
        
B.   Bid Security: As a guarantee of good faith, each offer must be accompanied by a Personal Check or Money Order in the amount indicated, made payable to the St. Lawrence County Treasurer. The amount of the bid security will be determined by the Purchasing Agent, but will be a minimum of 10% of the bid price. Refunds will be made to the unsuccessful bidders within ten (10) working days after acceptance of the successful bid.
        
C.   Liquidated Damages: Failure by the successful bidder to accept the award, make payment within the specified time, or to remove the property within the specified time will result in forfeiture of their bid security.
 
D.   Sales will be advertised a minimum of one time in each of the twoCounty’s official newspapers prior to the sale. Advertising will be the responsibility of the Purchasing Office. The cost of advertising will be borne by the Department receiving the revenue from the sale.
 
E.   The equipment and supplies will be available for inspection for one week prior to the sale. The inspection schedule will be set by the Buildings and Grounds Office and will be included in all advertising.
 
F.  Revenue generated by the sale of equipment and supplies generally will be added to the County sale of equipment revenue account. If a Department is offering for sale a single category of equipment or supplies with a potential value in excess of five hundred dollars, and has budgeted for the revenue in one of their revenue accounts, the revenue shall be added to that revenue account. Examples of this could be sale of automobiles, and sale of tax maps and rolls.
 
G.  In some instances, it is not allowable to deposit revenue from the sale of surplus equipment in the Central Stockroom revenue account. For example, New York State Highway Law does not allow commingling Highway funds with the General fund. Therefore, revenue from the sale of equipment purchased with Highway funds cannot be deposited in the General fund. In cases such as this, the revenues will be deposited in the appropriate department revenue fund, and the department will be responsible for the advertising expenses.
 
H.   Method of Sale: To allow preference to municipalities in St. Lawrence County a two-step bid system will be used.
 
  1. Notices will be sent to all St. Lawrence County Towns, Villages, and the City of Ogdensburg listing the surplus equipment and supplies available, and times that they may inspected. Municipalities will be given a minimum of two weeks to inspect and bid on the surplus equipment and supplies.
  2. After the municipalities have their opportunity to bid on the surplus equipment and supplies, the remaining items will be offered to the general public.
 
In both steps sealed offers will be received by the Purchasing Office until the deadline of the date of sale indicated and will then be publicly opened. The equipment or supplies offered will be awarded to the highest bidder. Tie bids will be determined by drawing lots. The County does reserve the right to reject any, and all bids. The County also reserves the right to sell to next highest bidder if the successful bidder fails to accept the award.
 
I.    Exceptions to the use of sealed bids:
 
  1. Auctions: While the County wishes to dispose of surplus equipment and supplies through the use of sealed bids, it is recognized that there are cases where an auction would best serve the interests of the County. If a Department believes that this is the case in their situation, the County Administrator may authorize the merchandise to be sold by auction. Advertising and revenue must be handled in the same manner as sealed bids.
  2. Transfer of surplus equipment to Political Subdivisions and School Districts in St. Lawrence County: The County Administrator may authorize the transfer of items valued at less than $250.00 to municipal governments and school districts in St. Lawrence County at no cost to the municipality. 
 
This transfer may be accomplished in the following manners:
(a) By written request of a municipality or school district to the County Administrator.
(b) By a letter being sent by the Purchasing Office to all St. Lawrence County Towns, Villages, School Districts, and the City of Ogdensburg. This letter would indicate that surplus equipment valued at less than $250 is available at no cost to the municipalities or school districts. Instructions for viewing and picking up the surplus equipment will be provided by the Purchasing Office in the letter.




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