The Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Union has established policies and procedures that comply with the New Jersey Local Public Contracts Law (LPCL) and has affirmed a commitment to procure goods and services summarized by the seven R’s:

  • The Right Quality
  • The Right Quantity
  • The Right Price
  • The Right Source
  • The Right Time
  • The Right Manner
  • The gReenest Path

The purpose and intent of this posting is to illustrate the method of operation that the County is mandated to use by the State of N. J. It is divided into three sections:

  1. The HOW – defining the allowable methods of obtaining the goods and services needed by the County.
  2. The WHY – a synopsis of the laws and regulations of the State of NJ that we must follow.
  3. The FAQ – frequently asked questions and the answers.

HOW

There are four basic methods of procurement that the County uses to obtain goods and services:

  1. Public Bidding
  2. Use of state, national and other cooperative contracts
  3. Quotations- Purchases under the bidding threshold
  4. Requests for Proposals-Professional services and other exceptions to bidding

The following will attempt to clarify these methods used To do Business with the County of Union.

Public Bidding
The public bids of the County are posted in print and on the website of the newspaper of record, the N.J. Advance Media, and the County website www.ucnj.org under Business Opportunities. Bid packages can be downloaded by any interested party. Further, the ITB Notification System section allows interested vendors to be electronically notified via email alerts when a public bid is scheduled to open that is specifically in their field of endeavor. E.g. Registered plumbing firms receive notice of plumbing bids.
 
Use of state, national and other cooperative contracts
State and national cooperative contracts follow the same fair and open requirements of the LPCL and are utilized by the County in lieu of conducting their own public bid. Advantages of the use of a state or national contracts over a County bid are:
  • The large amount of estimated business that the State of New Jersey or a national group of governments uses in its bids generally results in lower prices than a County could procure on its own.
  • Savings of the administrative costs associated with a County public bid.
  • County entities can get goods or services delivered in a shorter time frame than having to wait for a county public bid to be advertised and awarded.
Quotations – Purchases under the bidding threshold
The County may make small purchases under the threshold of $17,500 in the aggregate. For these purchases the LPCL and the County require the solicitation of quotations. Using departments generally keep a file of vendors from which to solicit quotations.  For a vendor to be considered for solicitation of quotes in their field, they should present their qualifications to the using department/division of the County that would typically use their goods or services. Contact information is available at www.ucnj.org under the “Departments” drop down menu.
 
Requests for Proposals(RFP)–Professional services and other exceptions to bidding
In regards to professional services such as lawyers, doctors and engineers, the LPCL allows an exception to bidding for any service under its definition:

Professional services means services rendered or performed by a person authorized by law to practice a recognized profession, whose practice is regulated by law, and the performance of which services requires knowledge of an advanced type in a field of learning acquired by a prolonged formal course of specialized instruction and study as distinguished from general academic instruction or apprenticeship and training. 

Other exceptions to bidding that require an RFP are Extraordinary Unspecified Services (EUS), insurance contracts, artistic contracts and contracts which fall between the two thresholds: $17,500 and $40,000.

Although professional services et al are considered as exceptions to bidding, NJ Public Law C.139 made it mandatory to post a public notice, publicly open and award any professional services et al for a contract over $17,500 as a further deterrent to any undue influence or preference in the award of such bids.

The County website posts Requests for Proposals and Requests for Qualifications in order to comply with C.139.  Access can be found at http://ucnj.org/rfqs-rfps-rccps/

So to summarize: How do you do business with the County of Union?

  1. Register for public bids or requests for proposals on the County website.
  2. Obtain a state or other cooperative contract that is extended to the County of Union
  3. Send information to the county division that uses your product in order to be considered for quotation.

WHY

How the State regulates County Procurement

The State of New Jersey allows the County of Union to tax its citizens under the stipulation that all expenditures of those funds to purchase goods or outside services comply with the Local Public Contracts Law (LPCL) and the Finance Law. Therefore, the first responsibility of the County is to purchase all goods and outside services pursuant to the LPCL. The second responsibility is to find the lowest price under the mandate of the laws and fulfilling all the needs of the using Departments of the County following the outline of the seven R’s.

One of the primary directives of the LPCL is that governments cannot spend more than a set threshold, for the County of Union currently $40,000, without that purchase being “fair” and “open”. “Fair” can be defined as available to any interested vendors and “open” as announced as widely as possible in the largest newspaper in the region and on the County website.

A large organization such as the County of Union has a limited amount of procurement that does not exceed $40,000 in a year. A factor in this is the concept of aggregation defined by the LPCL as meaning:

” the sums expended or to be expended for the provision or performance of any goods or services in connection with the same immediate purpose or task, or the furnishing of similar goods or services, during the same contract year”.

To illustrate its meaning, an example would be a need for the County to buy $10,000 worth of grass seed. Now this purchase might be under the $40,000, but here are three factors we must consider:

  1. The “same immediate purpose and task” can be interpreted as all products bought to maintain County grasslands. So fertilizer purchases would also count against the threshold.
  2. “During the same contract year” would dictate that you could not split purchases to avoid hitting the threshold. So if the county bought $10,000 worth of grass seed four times a year, the $40,000 total purchase for the year would exceed the threshold.
  3. Not stated in the definition, but still relevant, is the fact that you cannot separate purchases by County Department. If Parks buys a product or service for $20,000 a year and Public Works also buys $20,000 in the same year, the threshold is exceeded.

The County of Union, in order to best provide for the services needed by its citizens, procures primarily through state or national cooperative contracts and its own public bids for any procurement judged to exceed the $40,000 threshold.

Additional regulation was put in effect by the NJ Local Unit “Political Contribution Disclosure Compliance” Law, which requires that any contract for more than $17,500 to one vendor be addressed in a “Fair and Open” manner and require either a public bid, state contract or documentation that the vendor does not contribute to the elected officials of the County. All contracts over $17,500 require a public notice and a resolution of the Board.

FAQ

Why doesn’t the County use my company? We are in Union County and we can beat any price.
As stated in the WHY section, the state has ruled public bidding or state contracts which maximize open competition must be used for anything over $40,000 in the aggregate and there are few goods and services in the County that do not exceed this number in a twelve month span. For the few things that do fall under, see number three in the HOW section.
 
My product far exceeds the performance of the product the County is currently using, why does the County not consider it?
Any considerations of product effectiveness should be presented to the using Division. Most often it would be the Department of Public Works which includes the Division of Facilities and Grounds or the Parks Department. Contact info found at www.ucnj.org.
 
Why doesn’t the County make exceptions to buy from local businesses, small businesses, etc.to the benefit of these groups even though they may not have the lowest pricing ?
Court cases on record have ruled that the preservation of tax monies used to buy goods and services outweigh the benefit of using any of the exceptions.
 
 
Questions?

Any other questions on procurement will be addressed by the Division of Purchasing:

Laura Scutari, Q.P.A., MPA
Deputy Director of Administrative Services and Director of Purchasing
lscutari@ucnj.org