VALDOSTA -- In lieu of the recent Lowndes County Grand Jury inquiry into the bidding procedures of the Lowndes County School Board, many wonder about the same policies relating to the city of Valdosta, Lowndes County and Valdosta City Schools.

When it comes to purchasing, Amy Goolsby, Lowndes County purchasing agent, said nothing is bought that is not approved in the yearly budget.

"All supplies that are purchased for all the departments are requested by individual department heads at the beginning of the budget year," Goolsby said. "The department heads find out what they need and submit purchase orders."

Goolsby said if the purchase is estimated to cost under $500, the individual department can make the purchase itself without receiving bids.

If the purchase estimate exceeds $500 but is less than $5,000, at least three quotes from vendors are required and subject to verification by the purchasing department. Phone quotes can be taken for purchases below $1,000.

For purchases estimated over $5,000 but under $10,000, sealed bids must be submitted by vendors that are subject to approval by the county manager. For all bids estimated to exceed $10,000, formal advertising is required -- at least twice within the 30 days prior to the bid opening date -- as well as sealed bids, all of which are subject to board approval.

"When we send out invitations for vendors to bid, the bids must come to us sealed and in a particular format," Goolsby said. "We reserve the right to reject any bid from any vendor.'

She said in a request for bids, full specifications and special conditions for the item are provided. The sealed bids are opened in public at a specified time and must be received by that time -- otherwise, they will be rejected, no matter what the circumstances are.

State contracts are exempt from the bidding process unless a board member, the purchasing agent or county manager recommends bids be taken. State law requires all public works and road projects in excess of $20,000 to be bidden out.

Goolsby added that local vendors are preferred to add to the local tax base, and they are given preference if their price is no higher than 2 percent of the lowest bid price. The same procedure is followed if there is only one bid. However, state law prohibits this for public works projects.

Similarities exist between the Lowndes County purchasing policy and that of the city of Valdosta, but city purchasing agent Greg Brown said the city has no preference.

"We don't have anything in our policy that gives preferences to local vendors," Brown said. "What will happen is out-of-town vendors will stop bidding on certain items, and when local vendors find out about it, there is no telling what kind of price you will get."

As for the rest of the Valdosta purchasing policy, Brown said all purchases will be by purchase order and signed by either the city manager or director of finance.

If the purchase is $300 or less, it will be awarded to the vendor quoting the best price provided that competing vendors shall be contacted to determine price quotes at least three months. Purchases between $300 and $10,000 can only be awarded after receipt of competitive prices by phone, fax or email, but competitive prices are not required if there is only one source of supply.

For purchases up to $25,000, approval is required from the city manager and director of finance, including procurement of professional services or award of construction projects. Competitive pricing must be verified by at least two individuals from the engineering department.

Purchases of $10,000 or more require invitations for bids with general specifications, approval by the mayor and council and receipt of competitive sealed bids. At least two witnesses are required to be present for public bid openings. Advertisement is also required at least seven days prior to receipt of bids.

Per information provided by Bill Aldridge, purchasing agent for Valdosta City Schools, all SPLOST and construction projects are re

quired to receive competitive bids and are subject to the approval of the Valdosta City School Board and the finance department. All items are bought via purchase orders that are subject to approval from the purchasing department.

For equipment, materials or services exceeding $3,000, sealed bids are to be invited, opened publicly and subject to board approval. For purchases in excess of $1,000, at least two competitive prices shall be obtained.

Vendors who wish to be added to the vendors' lists are encouraged to contact the purchasing departments of the city, county, or school boards:

-- Lowndes County -- 671-2527.

-- Valdosta City BYE -- 333-8500.

-- City of Valdosta 259-3525.

To contact reporter T.S. Rose please call 244-3400 ext. 245.

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