Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Edgewood enters the 'eBay' age



By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

EDGEWOOD - Today, Edgewood hopes to join a growing number of Kentucky cities that have saved taxpayers thousands of dollars with a new electronic bidding process.

This afternoon is the bid opening for the much-anticipated Edgewood Senior and Community Center.

If all goes according to plan, Edgewood City Council hopes to award the bid Monday and start building the 6,300-square-foot-center within 45 days. It would be finished by March.

Unlike traditional sealed bids, the seven contractors vying to build Edgewood's center will submit their bids via an Internet "auction" and can lower them, if they choose to do so, within the allotted time.

"The whole purpose is to get the absolute best price that we can on the project," said Edgewood Administrator Roger Rolfes. "In the standard bidding format, it's not uncommon for contractors to comment after the bids are open, 'Boy, if I only knew, I could have submitted a lower bid.'

"In the electronic bidding process, nobody's obligated to change (a bid), but if they feel they really can do it for a little bit less, the taxpayer wins."

Louisville-based Ecuity, which provides the software for electronic bidding, has partnered with the Kentucky League of Cities to run 27 Internet auctions. Participants have saved taxpayers an average of 10 to 11 percent on $8.6 million worth of projects, said Kirby Ramsey, director of urban affairs for the Kentucky League of Cities.

Edgewood would be the first Kentucky city to use the electronic bidding process on a building project, Ramsey said.

In Northern Kentucky, Newport used the process to buy equipment for its public works department that it estimated would cost $45,000. The low bid was $27,374, or 39 percent less than the city had projected, he said.

Although the private sector has used electronic bidding for some time, Kentucky is one of a few states using it for public projects.

Indiana officials also are looking into offering the process to their cities.

With electronic bidding, suppliers or contractors go through a brief training. At a designated time and day, they use a password to submit their bid on the Internet from their home or regional office. Upon submission, the computer will tell each bidder where his or her bid ranks. Each bidder will be assigned a letter or number to preserve the confidentiality, and will know only his or her ranking, not bid amounts.

In Edgewood's case, bidders will have a half-hour to submit a base bid. If a losing bidder submits a new bid within the last five minutes, the process will be extended another five so that competitors can answer it.

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E-mail cschroeder@enquirer.com




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