Past performance should be a factor in awarding contracts

The previous performance of construction contractors should be a factor in determining who receives future contracts – with a caveat.

Acting as Committee of the Whole, Minot council members this week signaled that policy change will happen. The issue at hand was a choice this week to deny a low bidder and award a contract to the next bidder, because of the former’s alleged history of late completions. Minot residents are well aware of numerous examples of projects taking longer – sometimes much longer – than anticipated. And while a mechanism exists for tardy contractors to see their fee reduced, saving taxpayers money, that doesn’t necessarily mitigate for those upset with late projects.

Past performance is a factor to consider when looking at potential future performance. Additionally, sometimes the beginning of one project is linked to the completion of another, setting in motion delays with greater consequences than one might otherwise imagine.

However, the caveat is that adopting this criteria cannot reduce the emphasis on frugality. Mayor Chuck Barney said as much in delivering the sole vote against the specific contract discussed this week. He specifically noted the difference in the particular bids.

“To send a message on the back of the taxpayers for $90,000 is out of my comfort zone,” said Barney, noting it amounts to three-quarters of a mill of property tax. “I think the message needs to be sent – but not at that price.”

It would be foolish to set some financial threshold to restrict the council’s ability to holistically review bids. Instead, the council and future councils must take a look at numerous issues when making a decision – including both past performance and the difference in cost. Each occasion must be examined on its own. Only then will the city and Minot better the chance of projects being completed for acceptable cost and with some confidence that projects will be delivered in a timely manner.