ISLAMORADA -- Proposed changes to the village purchasing ordinance will be up for a preliminary vote when the Village Council convenes in it first meeting of the new year this week.
The refashioned ordinance comes forward 10 months after the Florida Auditor General's Office critiqued the village's contracting practices in a petitioner-mandated probe it completed last March, noting that no-bid extensions can result in higher costs for taxpayers.
Taking direct heed of one of the auditors' recommendations, the altered ordinance would require the town to document its reasons before formally waiving competitive bidding.
But the language of the change could have the effect of making it easier for the town to justify entering into no-bid contracts. Bidding requirements, reads one catch-all change, can be waived when the Village Council finds that the purchase of a good or service "is in the best interests of the village."
Another change, however, is more specific about when contracts should be extended without a bid, saying it should happen only when each of the following provisions have been met:
• the company or consultant has provided "outstanding service" to the village;
• the vendor's experience and qualifications are "of value" to the service at question;
• extending the contract would provide "continuity";
• the services in the contract "further the village's sustainability goals"; and
• the cost of the extension is "consistent with the existing contract" when adjusted for inflation and "market considerations."
Village Manager Ed Koconis said the goals of the proposed changes are to comply with the auditors' suggestion and to clarify the purchasing ordinance.
"It's more inclusive than exclusive," he said.
Since the release of the auditor general's report, the Village Council has awarded 12 no-bid contracts or contract extensions.
Also on Thursday, the council will weigh a request from Finance Director Maria Aguilar and Wastewater Utility Manager Greg Tindle to keep the village's options open in case the town needs to levy a new $20 million wastewater assessment next summer.
In order to have that option, the council must pass a resolution of intent by March 1. State law also requires that the town advertise the hearing for that resolution in local newspapers for four weeks.
A financial forecast for the wastewater project, provided by the village to state officials, includes a second assessment of $20 million. Council members, however, hope to obtain additional grant funding for the $113 million project, thereby rendering an assessment unnecessary.
The regular council meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 10, in the Founders Park Community Center.
The council will also meet the following morning at 10 o'clock for a workshop on enhancing permitting procedures within the planning and building departments.
The agenda for the workshop doesn't include more specific topics of discussion.
In late November Koconis told the council that his staff had already begun working on ideas to speed up the permitting process, as well as the process of reviewing applications for larger projects.
Those ideas, some of which could require changes to the village code, could come up at the Friday meeting.
Some council members have been critical of the planning department, saying it interprets land development regulations too harshly.