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Bill would force counties to bid engineering contracts

ACEC Ohio voices strong opposition

Counties would be required to competitively bid contracts for professional services, including engineering and architecture, if a bill introduced in the Ohio General Assembly were to become law.

House Bill 661, introduced Sept. 18 by Rep. Sandra Harwood (D-Niles), is not likely to be considered before the current legislative session ends Dec. 31.

Nonetheless, ACEC Ohio filed a strong protest with Harwood and three other representatives who co-sponsored the bill, Catherine Barrett (D-Hamilton), William J. Healy II (D-Canton) and Randy Law (R-Warren).

"This proposal flies in the face of procurement procedures recommended by every major public works and construction organization in the United States, notably including the American Public Works Association," said ACEC Ohio Executive Director Don Mader in a letter to the legislator. "It also conflicts with procedures mandated in federal and state procurement statutes that have been on the books for decades."

"Even the American Bar Association, in its Model Procurement Code for State and Local Governments, recommends that contracts for engineering, architecture and surveying service be negotiated with the most highly qualified professional," he said.

While the proposed legislation would enact a new section of state law to require bidding of all professional service contracts, Mader noted that even if the bill passed, counties would still be required to negotiate such contracts under the provisions of the state's Design Professional Selection Law (Ohio Revised Code §153.65-.71).

"This statute sets out very clear steps every county must take when seeking to contract for engineering and other professional design services. If certain counties are failing to comply with this statute, steps should be taken to bring these counties into compliance. Requiring counties to take bids on these services is bad public policy that would endanger the public health and safety."

Introduction of the bill apparently was prompted by a disagreement among Trumbull County commissioners over the process used to award engineering contracts.

ACEC Ohio will closely monitor H.B. 661 in what remains of this legislative session and will actively oppose any similar legislation that might be introduced in the new two-year session that begins in 2007.

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