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Local Venders Get Shot on School Bids

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Today bids will be let at Eastern Suffolk BOCES for arts and crafts supplies for East End schools, and for the first time the bid specs may be small enough — and the number of districts few enough —to encourage local vendors to apply.
At the beginning of the school year, Sag Harbor Schools Superintendent Dr. John Gratto was pushing for a South Shore Purchasing Consortium (SSPC), which would inform and encourage local bidders to provide items in East End school districts such as fuel oil, supplies and paper in the hope of saving districts money. Gratto said that by encouraging local bidders to apply, districts might be able to save money because the transportation and delivery costs would be less. Businesses can also be competitive, according to Gratto, without having to bid for a much larger area.
Though many local school districts expressed interest in Gratto’s idea, in November he called that plan “defunct” after approaching BOCES who offered to create four zones, including a new zone which would take in an area similar to that proposed by Gratto in the SSPC.
Previously, BOCES asked businesses to offer bids for goods and services for their entire region, which includes 51 school districts between Montauk and Orient to Islip and Brookhaven. Now, with the new zone in place, businesses can bid on projects solely for local school districts in Southampton, East Hampton and Shelter Island towns.
“As a result of Gratto’s initiative, BOCES is breaking up into four zones, to allow more local bidders to get involved,” said Len Bernard, the Sag Harbor School District’s business manager.
He explained that any vendor could apply for a project in more than one zone, but for some companies, staying within the borders of just one zone could help them competitively bid for projects. The new zones now stretch as far west as Babylon and Huntington.
“It was basically a re-structuring,” said Bernard.
Last Thursday, the Sag Harbor School District invited local companies and others to attend a meeting to learn the process of bidding for local projects. Bernard noted that approximately 12 vendors attended the event, including Robert Evjen representing the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce. BOCES representatives explained that arts and crafts supplies will be the first item put out for bid. Following that, there will be a bid for custodial supplies in May, fuel oil in June, and a stationery and paper bid in August.
At the meeting, Laurie Conley, school purchasing agent for BOCES, handed out a sample bid package for the arts and crafts supplies. In the package, there was information pertaining to the contract, a reference form, and the bid proposal. Conley reminded bidders that they must have obtained this form from either BOCES or the Long Island Bid Notification System, to be considered.
Elizabeth Dow, owner of Mixed Media Art and Supply Store in Amagansett and director of the Applied Art School there, is currently bidding on the arts and crafts for all four zones and attended Thursday’s meeting.
“Overall, BOCES was well represented and very accommodating,” said Dow. “It was clear that the effort to focus on local business was heartfelt and genuine.”
During the bidding process, the bidder must come in at the lowest price, “but they must also have systems in place to fill and ship orders to multiple locations,” said Dow. “This may sound easy but is not that simple. Many vendors are not stocking materials to keep their cash flow unencumbered. This creates longer lead times for the end user and makes for a bigger challenge in filling orders in a timely fashion.”
She said bidding can also be difficult because it can involve multiple vendors with strict guidelines. Further, Dow said that some vendors require large minimum orders in order to get the best pricing and can typically be out of reach to many local businesses.
“That said, I am personally rolling up my sleeves and sharpening the pencil to try and compete,” said Dow who feels that the new zoning developed by BOCES is a good idea, because it gets local companies involved in the bidding process and gives them “an opportunity to take on as much or as little as is their comfort level.”
Bernard said in addition to attempting to get more local companies involved, BOCES is also offering to bid out services such as plumbing, HVAC, painting, carpentry and electric, and the majority of people who attended Thursday’s meeting were those in the service industry.
“For example, if there were a need for a cracked sink to be fixed, there would be a list of vendors for BOCES contractors,” said Bernard, adding this has never been done before.
Gratto added that landscaping may also be put out for bid.
“It was a really productive meeting,” said Bernard, “It would be great to get some local vendors involved.”
According to Gratto, another presentation may be held in the coming weeks through the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce for those who were unable to attend.
BOCES posts all bids on www.longislandbidsystem.com and are advertised in Newsday’s Suffolk edition. Information on how to bid for projects can also be viewed at that web address.
If a company applies for a bid, BOCES will inform that company of rejection or approval once the bids are opened. This process can take anywhere from two to eight weeks from the date of the opening of the bid.

 

Venders can also view bids by visiting:

http://esboces.org/CB