GAINESVILLE – Hall County leaders expressed a degree of frustration during the county commission work session Monday afternoon about the apparent lack of interest by private companies to submit bids for doing county projects.
“Are people just that busy that they can’t respond,” Hall County Commissioner Billy Powell asked Srikanth Yamala, Hall County’s Public Works and Utilities Director. Yamala was reporting to the commission on seven county approved projects that had been put out for bid and the results of the bidding process on those projects.
“For this,” Yamala answered Powell, referring to the bid result he had just presented to commissioners, “we mailed nineteen bids and received only one (response).”
Hall County Administrator Jock Connell said the lack of participation by companies and individuals in bidding for county projects was growing. “We’ve begun to see a trend…we’re beginning to see less and less people, whether they’re construction projects or whether they’re service related projects.”
And the trend is not unique to Hall County according to Connell. “I think you’re seeing this play out throughout the country. I think you’re probably seeing it play out in people’s personal lives, too.”
Connell illustrated that aspect with something he recently experienced firsthand. “I hired a painter for my own house a few months ago, and as he came out to give me a price, the thing he said to me was, it’s probably going to be four to six weeks before I can get to you.”
Connell said that situation is true of service providers and contractors whether on a personal level or on a governmental level: “It’s not like they’re lined up to do it. I think people are seeing this on a personal basis, not just on a business basis.”
Connell says the COVID-19 pandemic has really made the effort to increase participation in the bidding process much tougher. “Anywhere where there are materials involved, some factories have shut down and created a backlog, a shortage of materials, and we’re struggling with the labor market out there.”
But, Connell emphasized, just because only one bid is submitted for a project, that doesn’t mean the county accepts that bid by default.
Connell says if the only bid, or the lowest bid for a project, is considerably above expectation, the effort is aborted and the bidding process is restarted. “We’re always trying to make sure that what we’re getting is where we think the price should be.”
“Sometimes you get a different response; it could be just timing, and somebody is available to do the work,” Connell explained regarding his experience with RFP (Request For Proposal) and RFQ (Request for Quote) restarts. “In an abundance of caution on how we spend taxpayer dollars we’re always going to go out and see if we can find a better price.”
“But we’re in a challenging spot right now,” he said.