If you’ve ever noticed a theme running through these editorials, it is about government being tight with taxpayers’ money. It is too often a good thing when politicians whine about the lack of money, because it forces frugality and makes them live more like real people must live every day.
O’Fallon recently got new air conditioning units for its City Hall and public safety buildings for $188,335. It took the low bid solicited through U.S. Communities, a government buying co-op based in Charlotte, N.C.
The city likely got a good deal. The problem is that none of the local contractors knew about the potential work, and those same local contractors are the ones whose taxes go to the city so the city can put that money in those out-of-town pockets.
“You would have thought the city would have given us a shot at bidding the projects, especially since we are a local business, paying taxes,” said Chris Lugge, vice president of Bel-O, a local heating and cooling contractor. He said city leaders were wrong thinking Bel-O did not have access to the brand of cooling units the city wanted.
But then Lugge was unable to enlighten the city because he never knew about the potential work.
O’Fallon was partnered with a school district in Maryland. The solicitation for bids was advertised in Hilo, Hawaii, and a business publication in Portland, Ore. How in the world could local contractors have known about the work, and how much more effort would it have taken for O’Fallon leaders to get the word out?
Then to add insult to injury, O’Fallon Mayor Gary Graham says the bidding issue “is not a big deal” and was being brought up by a likely political opponent.
Next to tight times, the best thing to get government leaders to re-examine policies and practices is a little competition for their elected office.