Lansdale Borough Manager Timi Kirchner now has more guidelines toward her purchasing power in the borough.
Not only that – Kirchner continues her authority to put out or not put out Requests for Proposals for specific borough contractual services.
Council this month approved unanimously the approval of a purchasing manual for the borough for the procurement of services and bids.
Councilmen Rich DiGregorio and Jack Hansen, both Democrats from Ward Two, were dissenters earlier in the meeting when they said Kirchner's power to decide whether or not an RFP should be required for professional consultancy should be removed from the purchasing manual.
Mayor Andy Szekely – who can vote to break a tie and veto an ordinance – proposed that the power of the borough manager should be challenged when it comes to RFPs and purchasing.
In the end, a roll call vote resulted in 7-2 to keep the language in the document.
DiGregorio and Hansen argued, in their own terms, that Kirchner should not have the power to decide what does or does not require an RFP.
“As a council, it should be our decision to have an RFP if we decide to do that as a body,” DiGregorio said.
Council President Matt West said the decision will always come before council regardless.
“You’re not taking away the authority of the approval of those contracts,” West said. “It’s the process by which you get to the motion.”
Solicitor Mark Hosterman said once a relationship with a certain consultant is established, it is often advantageous to continue that relationship with the same type of work and give that work to the same consultant.
“The work goes out without an RFP because the relationship is established and the advantage of knowing the consultant is well-versed in those issues,” he said.
Those supporting the purchasing manual said the argument was a moot point – even if the language giving the borough manager the power to decide on the solicitation of RFPs is striken from the ordinance, it wouldn’t matter.
By law of the Lansdale Borough Code, under Chapter 13: Borough Manager, Section 6: Specific Duties, it states the following:
"(The borough manager) shall be the purchasing officer of the borough and shall purchase, in accordance with the provisions of the Borough Code, all supplies and equipments of the various agencies, boards, departments and other offices of the borough. He shall keep an account of all purchases and shall, from time to time when directed by Council, make a full, written report thereof. He shall have the power to purchase supplies and equipment for the use of the borough; provided, however, that no single article or purchase shall be in excess of the limitations as set forth in the Borough Code."
“It’s simply procedures for managing as a business without hamstringing your borough manger to have every process taking a disproportionate amount of time and effort to get it to us,” said adminstration and finance committee chair Councilman Dan Dunigan. “We don’t lose our authority … it’s a qualification process.”
Dunigan said before the document existed, Kirchner had the free reign to do whatever she wanted.
Kirchner called the purchasing manual a “very proud moment for the borough.”
“It’s an essential piece to give our citizens confidence that this borough is being run by state guidelinss and goals, especially as it relates to purchasing,” Kirchner said.
She said she has the authority to be the purchasing agent for the borough.
“Up until this moment, it was an ungoverned authority, if you will. An unguided authority,” she said. “Now, it is guided specifically by this purchasing manual.”
Kirchner said Marita Kelly of the state DCED, finance director Brian Shapiro and assistant finance director Brian McGowan worked diligently to make sure the manual met state guidelines and that it allowed borough departments to continue doing their jobs every day.
Councilman Mike Sobel said the manual is “fantastic” idea for the borough.
“This is not a municipal thing; this is how a business operates,” Sobel said. “We all said when we campaigning we wanted Lansdale Borough to run like a business: very practical, very good, very controlled, very ordered. This is one major step toward that.”
After the meeting, Dunigan said any organization big and small have purchasing manuals as a way to provide direction to employees at various levels.
“Prior to this, we had non. We were noncompliant with certain rules and regulations, that we should have had one,” he said. “The borough code is written in such a fashion that he or she is the purchasing manager and without any confines placed on them.”
Now, depending on the level of authority, department heads know what they can or can’t do within their respective budgets. For instance, public works goes through a number of nuts and bolts every year, so they need to get quotes for that to justify the pricing structure as it’s validated, he said.
An RFP comes into play specific to professional consultancy. Dunigan said RFPs don’t apply to projects like turf management, road projects or roofing contracts, except for when those are of a certain size and scope.
Dunigan agreed that the argument whether in the manual it states the purview of the manager is to determine an RFP for professional services.
“(The borough manager’s RFP power) is a guideline, that’s not the law,” he said. “The law is the ordinance that says he or she as borough manager can do that. To me, it was a facetious argument.”
The argument over the borough manager’s decision on RFP for services was brought up moments later when council approved - unanimously - a $40,000 contract with Delta Development Group to develop a plan for a Business Improvement District.
More information on that story will follow.