March 29, 2017
Managing public resources and getting the best value for the buck is always a challenge for trustees of public funds. Sometimes in the effort to appear to be getting the best value it is actually possible to come out on the short end. Consider acquisition of new or replacement equipment as an example. Typically major equipment acquisitions are put out to tender with suppliers and the best bid gets the sale. Can the purchase be made in better ways? Can the public good be maintained using unconventional methods? Perhaps.
Let me tell you a story of some recent acquisitions made by the District of Chetwynd.
During the budget discussions Council approved the purchase of a number of capital items including a replacement tractor for the 30-year-old Ford that had been used to cut large areas of grass as well as to mow ditches with the side arm, and a flatbed pickup to replace the very-old flatbed used by grounds crews.
In its wisdom Council authorized $95,000 for the tractor and $30,000 for the flatbed. Alright so far, but when it is discovered that a new tractor meeting the specifications will overspend the budget by $55,000 and the best used tractors available could not be squeezed into the budget, a new approach had to be developed. Conventional purchasing practices were not up to the reality of the market.
With the knowledge of market realities, the Director of Public Works, Paul Gordon, sent the District mechanic, Ed Lepp, to investigate the possibilities at Ritchey Brothers’ Auction in Edmonton and to report on the options available.
Ed Lepp returned with the data on several units that met the specifications laid out by District of Chetwynd Administration and the following week Paul Gordon attended the auction with authority to bid on the units that he wanted.
Here’s the result if you are ready. The 2014 John Deere 6140D, the perfect machine for the job, fell into Paul’s hands for $77,000, $18,000 under approved budget. The 2014 ¾ Ton Chev flatbed with 11,000k on the odometer was acquired for $14,000 less than the approved budget. It’s a 2 for 1 deal! Two units actually acquired for less than the budget approved for the tractor.
This is an unconventional way for a local government to acquire capital items but it shows how far we will go to save tax payer dollars and maintain our inventory of serviceable equipment. Once we accepted that we would have to buy used equipment and once the budget had been approved it was a matter of shopping around to find the best buy for your dollars.
I would not be surprised if, in the future, you will see your local government being even more creative in the way it saves dollars and manages resources in its trust. After all, the dollars we don’t spend today can be repurposed for tomorrow’s needs and who knows what surprises tomorrow will bring. Not me. Not even you. But we can hedge our bets.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor