Members of the Utilities Service Board on Wednesday opted to forego a traditional bidding process and struck their first-ever cooperative purchasing agreement with counterparts in Indianapolis to secure the lowest possible price on a state-of-the-art video camera system.
Kirk Bouchie, general manager of Vincennes Water Utilities, for months has been considering the purchase of a new video system that would be used to inspect underground sanitary sewer and storm water pipes.
The board this spring sought and received two bids.
The first was from Brown Equipment Company in Evansville for just over $225,000.
The second was from Jack Doheney Companies, a dealer in Indianapolis the utility has looked to often over the years for big —and often specialized — equipment purchases. That bid was for just under $320,000.
The utility purchased equipment like this in 2005, but hasn't been able to use it in about year as its technology has become antiquated.
This new digital video system would be used primarily to inspect underground pipes, specifically to diagnose problems and alert the utility to needed replacements.
When an option, it eliminates the need for intrusive and costly exploratory digging.
But the process to find just the right camera system, Bouchie said, has proved cumbersome and time consuming as so few vendors provide it.
“We spent a lot of time with both companies looking at the products,” Bouchie said. “We had two field visits here where we were able to go out and sample the equipment in the field.
“We came back, put our heads together and decided neither was what we felt we needed for the next 10-15 years,” he said. “Because this isn't something you are going to want to replace very often.”
So Bouchie and officials with the utility put their noses back to the grindstone. They heard of technology currently available but not included in either truck they looked at and sampled.
Bouchie spoke to utility crews in other, larger cities — including Terre Haute, Evansville and Indianapolis — as well as private companies that use this kind of equipment.
“And we feel like we have gained a lot of knowledge since March,” he said.
They went back to Jack Doheney Companies for a slightly different video system, one with clearer imaging than the first.
But in an effort to avoid the traditional bidding process — one usually required for such large purchases — they looked to a cooperative purchasing agreement, which the board's legal counsel, Ed Cummings, a partner at HartBell LLC, 513 Main St., took great lengths to explain.
Utility officials in Indianapolis recently purchased a similar video system, and through a cooperative purchasing agreement, one dictated by state statute, Vincennes can get the same — or a very similar — truck at the same price of $341,285.
It's a process, Cummings said, that smaller cities can use to gain access to the better options and lower prices of larger markets — and the competition that exists within them — for such a very specialized piece of equipment.
Cummings likened it to “piggy-backing” on a larger city's buying power, and he called it a “unique opportunity” to obtain the truck and equipment at “substantial savings.”
Cummings wrote up a resolution for the board to approve, and USB member Brian Johnson, an attorney with Kolb Roellgen & Kirchoff, read it over as did city attorney Dave Roellgen, who is a partner at the firm.
All gave it their blessing.
“It's an interesting thing,” Johnson said. “It's a great idea (that allows) smaller communities to get a better idea of what's out there.”
The board approved the resolution, and Bouchie said he expects the new video system truck to arrive in the next 90 days.