The Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC) may soon be waterlogged with more paperwork and responsibility if the state Senate passes legislation requiring all road commissions to adhere to a new competitive bidding requirement, according to an RCOC official.
House Bill (HB) 4790 states that if a township contributes 50 percent or more to the costs of a road project, then the township board, via resolution, can require the solicitation of competitive bids on the project before a contract is awarded; and in that event, the bidding process and final contract would be submitted by the road commission to township board for approval.
“When you look at counties like Oakland and Livingston, they are doing things right — it’s not meant to punish them, but we have to do things generically because we cover all 83 counties,” said state Rep. Bill Rogers (R-Milford).
State Rep. Gail Haines (R-Waterford, West Bloomfield) echoed Roger’s sentiments.
“The challenge I have in representing my district is that we do things right in Oakland County, but I don’t see this bill doing any harm,” she said. “It makes the statewide economy better and from what I understand townships don’t have jurisdiction on some of their roads and yet pay for the bulk of it. This bill strengthens local control and saves taxpayer dollars.”
The RCOC already obtains competitive bids on all road paving and reconstruction projects. Minor repair and maintenance projects are conducted by RCOC personnel.
“We’re generally opposed to the bill,” said RCOC Spokesman Craig Bryson. “It’s unnecessary — we do a lot of that already on any major project.”
“Road (projects) are big time money and should be competitively bid in all circumstances,” Rogers said. “Even on smaller projects, pricing should be checked periodically and on an annual basis.”
Bryson added that mandating a competitive bidding process would be superfluous since the RCOC maintains a positive working relationship with the county’s townships, and works to get the best price on each project. The bill would only create more paperwork and require more administrative personnel to facilitate road work, meaning added costs and time.
“It’s another layer of red tape and will slow down the process while adding costs to the process,” Bryson said. “If a township wants us to do a job, we make sure it gets done and get the competitive prices to get that job done well.”
Bryson cited the recent Milford Township project at Milford and Dawson roads as one successful collaboration where RCOC worked hand-in-hand with the township.
“Milford Township wanted to do this project so we reviewed it to make sure the plan was up to standards, and then we got out of the way. We made sure it was as cost-efficient as possible,” Bryson said.
The RCOC views HB 4790 as an undue approach when smaller fixes could be facilitated to placate problems.
“They are using a sledge hammer to do what a fly swatter could do,” Bryson said. “It would just be more hoops for us to jump through.”
The legislation passed the House in late June and has been referred to the Senate Transportation Committee. All lakes area state representatives voted in favor of the bill last June.
Haines said to stay tuned since a substitute bill may be coming down the pike to place caps and thresholds on minimum amounts and make some changes to the bidding and approval process.