‘Middle’ ground

Published 9:02am Monday, January 20, 2014

JACKSON – Sometimes the lowest bid may not be best suited for the job.

That was the case here last week where the Northampton County Board of Commissioners opted to spend roughly $6,000 more than the low bid for a new ambulance for the county-owned Ambulance Service.

Three bids were received, each for a 2014 Chevrolet G 4500 cab and chassis. The low bidder ($123,949.00) was submitted by Southeastern Specialty Vehicles. Northwestern Emergency Vehicles turned in a bid of $129,981.00 while Select Custom Apparatus was the high bidder at $144,539.40.

Traditionally, the winner is the low bid, not unless there are special circumstances. That came into play in this case.

In presenting the information, Northampton County EMS Director Charles Joyner said he preferred Northwestern Emergency Vehicles over the low bidder. That prompted County Manager Ken Creque to inquire of what justified that recommendation.

In response, Joyner listed four justifications…. Northwestern Emergency Vehicles come equipped with a hydraulic lift for oxygen tanks (instead of having Northampton EMS personnel manually lifting those 80-pound tanks); the patient compartment is roughly one foot longer (roomier for EMS personnel while assisting a patient); there is a child safety seat (a state requirement); and the cab is 10 inches longer, giving a larger driver more leg room.

“These are my reasons to justify accepting the second highest bid,” Joyner said. “Plus, the last six ambulances we purchased came from Northwestern Emergency Vehicles; we’ve had good service out of those vehicles and good customer service from the company.”

Commissioner Virginia Spruill asked Creque was he satisfied with Joyner’s justifications.

“With the additional information provided by Mr. Joyner, I will support his recommendation,” Creque answered. “The reasons he listed appears to give the Northwestern Emergency Vehicles more operational capability.”

Creque reminded the commissioners that each company submitting a bid was given identical requests for proposals. He added that Northampton County Ambulance Service is budgeted $130,000 this fiscal year in its capital improvement plan to purchase a new ambulance.

On a motion from Commission Vice Chair Fannie Greene and a second from Commissioner Joe Barrett, the board voted without objection to accept the bid from Northwestern Emergency Vehicles.

The new ambulance will replace a vehicle in the Northampton County Ambulance Service fleet that is over six years old.

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