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Smithtown can award contracts based on 'best value'

Smithtown Town Hall is shown in this undated

Smithtown Town Hall is shown in this undated photo. Credit: Erin Geismar

Smithtown Town Board members have voted unanimously to add a chapter to the town code that allows contracts to be awarded based on "best value" rather than the lowest bid.

The measure applies to purchase contracts, including those for services costing more than $20,000, but excludes those needed to complete public works projects.

The measure passed April 23 in a 5-0 vote. According to the amendment, any contract awarded on the basis of "best value" instead of "lowest responsible bidder" must be "thoroughly and accurately documented."

At an April 7 public hearing on the proposal, Assistant Smithtown Town Attorney Janice Hansen gave an example of when the measure might be put to use.

"The best value option may be used if, for example, it is more cost-efficient over time to award the good or service to other than the lowest responsible bidder or offerer if factors such as lower cost of maintenance, higher quality and longer product life can be documented," she said.

But Charlie Gardner, director of government affairs for the Long Island chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association, said at the hearing that his members took issue with phrasing that bids awarded based on best value would be determined by objective and quantifiable analysis of criteria, where possible.

"Why does it say 'where possible?' Shouldn't it always be?" he said. "We're not quibbling with the intent of the law . . . but down the road when subjectivity enters into it, that's the concern of my members."

In an interview Wednesday, Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said, "before we make any awards for bids for that concept, it needs to be fully vetted and explained."

All contracts, including those awarded based on best value -- as defined by state finance law -- require town board approval.

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