Germantown moves forward on amending purchasing ordinance

By Published: March 26, 2019 12:02 AM CT

Germantown aldermen voted Monday night to increase to $25,000 the limit for city purchases before competitive sealed bids are required, a move proponents said is consistent with state policy.

The meeting was the first for the city's new parliamentarian, Charles Schulz, and for the use of metal detectors for those attending Board of Mayor and Aldermen meetings. 

Schulz, hired in an effort to make meetings move more efficiently, whispered with Mayor Mike Palazzolo through the meeting of more than three hours. He never publicly intervened in the proceedings, however.

The change to the city ordinance governing purchases was approved by a 3-2 vote on the second of three readings. Aldermen Mary Anne Gibson, Rocky Janda and Forrest Owens voted in favor of the change, while Dean Massey and Scott Sanders voted against it following a 40-minute discussion between aldermen and city staff.

Third and final reading is scheduled for April 11.

The change increases the spending limit from the current $10,000. The amendment language is based on state language.

The Tennessee General Assembly adopted language in the municipal purchasing law in 2015, allowing municipal governments to increase their purchasing threshold – or the amount they can spend without requiring sealed bids – to $25,000 if they have a “centralized purchasing authority with a full-time purchasing agent.”

In Germantown, the centralized authority is the procurement department. Its director is Lisa Piefer.

“It’s reflective of what takes place at the state level,” city administrator Patrick Lawton said.

“We don’t change our ordinances very much (in procurement). … When the municipal law changes, we usually follow suit,” Piefer added.

For purchases between $10,000 up to $25,000, Piefer's office will oversee a competitive process to award the purchase. Purchases of less than $10,000 will be reported on the quarterly report.

Piefer said the new process will make purchasing more efficient and help the city reach one of its strategic objectives by providing services and meeting current needs as well as being proactive towards future needs.

Emergency purchases not outlined in the approved budget will be reported to the city administrator within three days after the purchase so it can be presented to the aldermen at their next meeting.

The city also amended its change order process, the process through which a contractor can request a change in cost because of unforeseen circumstances. 

If the cost difference is less than $10,000, the mayor and city administrator can approve it following a recommendation by the city engineer. Aldermen would be notified by a memorandum at their next meeting.

Massey asked if there were any negative effects under the current processes for purchases and change orders, but Piefer said the changes were a smart move in order to stay competitive with other cities in the area.

“What we could purchase for $7,000 is not what we can purchase for $7,000 in 2019,” Piefer said.

She also said if processes are slow for bidders, they would be likely to go to cities other than Germantown.

“That would damage our pool of people coming in,” she said.

“The people elected the board to look after the receipts we get from our taxpayers,” Sanders said, expressing concern of the $25,000 threshold.

“The aldermen approved the budget. … They already approved the purchase,” Alderman Rocky Janda said.


Germantown Ordinance Amendment Board Of Mayor And Aldermen
Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren is a lifelong resident of Shelby County and a May 2018 graduate of the University of Memphis.  She has worked for several local publications and has covered Germantown since May 2018.

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