At today's Committee of the Whole meeting the idea of paying stipends to bidders was brought for our consideration. After reading the backup materials that I received only 2 days prior to this meeting, I was amazed that such a thing was actually being considered.
I reached out to several area professionals with extensive contracting/building experience in both the public and private sector in an attempt to see what these experts thought of this idea. The consensus was that this practice is not common, and most of the folks I spoke with had never been paid a stipend for preparing and submitting a bid.
"It's a cost of doing business, period" said one Engineer I spoke with that spent 27 years in the Navy in acquisitions and contracting all over the world.
"I've never heard of this before" said a developer friend I called.
Another expert I have known for many years and who currently works out of state told me "I've heard of this, and for design-build projects that are not well-defined by the customer and that require a significant amount of design and staff time--this is not necessarily out of line." He continued "but not offering the stipend is not going to chase away the top-line firms, they will be there and they will submit because they want the work."
So after staff presented their materials, I spoke up right away and explained that I could not support this, and that I would not support this. I explained that as a school board member in a district that has done extensive building over the last decade, we have never offered stipends for bidders, ever.
And having worked for four different companies over the last 12 years at NAS Pensacola in a variety of facilities related positions---I have never seen this sort of a stipend program out here at the base, even during hurricane Ivan reconstruction where the base did hundreds of millions of dollars in construction projects to address the immense damage from that storm.
With all of this as the backdrop, I dug in my heels and unequivocally stated I wouldn't support stipends for the unsuccessful bidders competing for our jail rebuild project.
Although one commissioner did say he could support this concept "at the low end of the contemplated amount"---three other commissioners joined me and expressed that they would not support this--for a variety of very good reasons.
Escambia County will not be paying stipends for our unsuccessful bidders.