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Southampton OKs 'best value' contract policy

Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said a proposal to

Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said a proposal to allow contracts for goods and services to be based on “best value” would give the town more flexibility to get the best long-term deals. (July 18, 2011) (Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan)

Southampton Town now can award contracts for goods and services based on “best value,” instead of simply awarding them to the lowest responsible bidder, according to a law approved by the town board last week.

The town will be allowed to consider such factors as maintenance costs, durability and quality, according to the resolution passed Tuesday night, 4-1.

Town staff and Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said the proposal would give the town more flexibility to get the best long-term deals. Similar laws have been passed by other governments, including Suffolk County and New York City, deputy town attorney Carl Benincasa said.

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But Councilwoman Bridget Fleming balked at the proposed change, saying it adds “wiggle room” to town spending.

“I’m skeptical,” said Fleming, a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan who noted she prosecuted government fraud. “Anything that introduces that level of subjectivity is playing with fire.”

Throne-Holst said the proposal “protects us from just lower bidders coming in, purposefully bidding low, knowing their costs would escalate.”

She said the town’s procurement process right now is centralized, well-controlled and regulated.

“It’s very easy to give a lowball bid, by a vendor, knowing you’ll add on costs,” Throne-Holst said.

Southampton Comptroller Leonard Marchese noted that all town books are open and subject to audits. A state auditor, he predicted, would look first at the town’s procurement policy under “best value” to make sure the awards are objective. “This is not something we take lightly,” he said. “We will follow the letter of law.”

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