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Fairfield Township Informant

Letter to Mayor and Committee regarding bidding on ADA compliance contract

Here’s the text of my March 8, 2012 letter to Mayor Sharp and the Fairfield Township Committee questioning the manner in which a public contract was awarded.

Dear Mayor Sharp and Committee members:

I am in receipt of Mr. Selb’s March 7, 2012 response to my Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request.  For your ready reference, I have converted it into a PDF file and placed on-line here.  Below, I will refer to this 59-page PDF document by page number (i.e. (PDF15) meaning page 15 of the PDF document).

I write today because I believe that the Township’s recent award of contracts to various vendors to make the municipal building ADA compliant may have fallen short of the Local Public Contract Law (LPCL) requirements. 
Before continuing, I want to stress that I am no expert on the LPCL and consider this present letter an attempt to learn more about the law.  If I am incorrect on some aspect of the LPCL or the details regarding this project, I would appreciate it if you would correct me. 

Following is my analysis of what occurred with the recent construction contract:

1. It appears that Fairfield needed to make certain repairs to the municipal building to make it ADA compliant (PDF50).  While it is a bit unclear, it appears that the scope of the project increased as time went on.

2. The project, as originally anticipated, had two basic components: a) concrete and walkway work and b) installation of new doors (PDF01). 

3. The concrete component was awarded to American Rehab, who quoted a total cost of $14,052 while a another bidder from whom a quote was solicited, Shaw Masonry, quoted $15,514 (PDF19).  Separately, a vendor named At Your Pace was awarded $8,143.74 for installation of the doors (PDF10).  Thus, the project cost, without the subsequent change orders, cost $22,195.74.

4. Since the Township doesn’t have a Qualified Purchasing Agent (PDF01), then any contracts, other than those exempted, such as professional services and extraordinary unspecifiable services, exceeding the bid threshold of $17,500 must go out for competitive bidding.

5. Yet, despite the fact that the cost of the project exceeded the bid threshold (PDF19) “no competitive bidding occurred” (PDF01). 

6. When I spoke with Mr. Joseph Veight about this matter a few months back, he said that the reason the project didn’t go out to bid was because the doors were in such bad shape that immediate replacement of them constituted an emergency purchase.  This assertion is supported by PDF27.  While it’s not clear, it appears that even if the $2,450 replacement of the north side door was an emergency, and even if it was exempt from the bidding laws, the remaining elements of the project still exceeded the $17,500 bid threshold.

In sum, it appears that the two components of the project, each of which were under the bid threshold (but in excess of the quote threshold of $2,625) were separately awarded instead of aggregated together and put out to bid.  This, I believe, is a violation of the LPCL.

It seems plain that the intent of the Local Public Contract Law (LPCL) is that projects that exceed the bid threshold need to be put out to bid so as to protect the taxpayers’ pocketbook.  The Legislature could have never intended for this salutary policy to be defeated simply by dividing a project up in smaller components, each of which were under the threshold.

Thank your for your attention to this matter.  I look forward to your comments on and corrections to the above analysis.

Very truly yours,

John Paff, Chairman
New Jersey Libertarian Party’s
Open Government Advocacy Project
paff@pobox.com
voice: 732-873-1251

By John Paff

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project