Although any contract more than $15,000 automatically comes before the city council for approval, some city leaders would like to see bidding thresholds added to the city's continuing services contracts.
As it currently stands, the city's continuing service agreements are renewed on a yearly basis, and are typically re-bid every three to five years. The city has approximately 30 continuing services contracts that range from sidewalk maintenance and asphalt projects to contracts with the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society and the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office.
City leaders had previously discussed creating bid thresholds on multiple occasions last year, before taking up the talks again during Monday night's City Council workshop.
Talks of bid thresholds came about while the city was discussing the Marler Street parking lot, said Councilman Jim Bagby, who was the itemís sponsor.
Previously, Bagby had suggested having a $50,000 bid threshold for sidewalk projects and $200,000 for road repaving, but he was open for input.
"I thought we just should have some level where we put it out to bid," he said. "I'm fine with $250,000 and $75,000 (thresholds); there just has to be some level that the council is comfortable with and follows state law."
State statutes require all construction projects that exceed $300,000 and all electrical projects that exceed $75,000 to be competitively bid.
City Manager Maryann Ustick said there are situations where bid thresholds could have delayed projects in the city. Based on Bagby's original $50,000 threshold for sidewalk projects, Ustick told the council that projects like the Main Street sidewalk improvement would have been delayed, due to its $64,000 price tag.
"We would have had to develop bid specifications either outside or inside and then we would have had to put together bid documents and go through the bid process, and it would have taken many, many months," she said. "There is no guarantee that we would have gotten the quality of work we've seen for the cost."
For Councilman Tuffy Dixon, selecting the lowest bidder on a project may not be the best course of action for the city moving forward.
"Kelly Street was the low bid," he told his colleagues, noting that the city had a few issues with that particular sidewalk project.
At the request of the council, city staff will draft a full report for city leaders to pan through, before making a final decision on whether or not to create bidding thresholds. Based on the discussion, the threshold for construction projects could be between $250,000-$300,000, and $100,000 for sidewalk and drainage projects.
As part of the request, the city would also set forth a list of criteria that bidders would have to meet to win a bid project, such as being Florida Department of Transportation certified and bonded. They would also take into consideration the location of the company.
More than anything, Councilman Bagby said he wants to "protect" the city.
"I just want us to re-look at our bidding process," he said.