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Cumberland Valley School District recently settled a lawsuit in which it agreed to stop using cooperative purchasing programs for roofing projects.

Nicholas Shears and Michael DuCharme, both employees of Carlisle SynTec Systems, filed the lawsuit in June 2009, which contends the district’s use of a purchasing cooperative skirts state competitive bidding laws, resulting in higher costs for taxpayers.

While the district admits no wrongdoing, it has agreed to comply with state competitive bidding laws and cease the use of purchasing cooperatives, SynTec spokesman Brandon Peach said in a press release issued Monday.

"We’re glad the school district understands it can save taxpayer money by competitively bidding projects requiring roof work to ensure that the most qualified option is selected," said DuCharme, director of product marketing for the company.

"Unfortunately, the well-intended cooperative purchasing method has resulted in inflated costs due to the inherent complexity of construction work," DuCharme added.

Still bid co-op

While the district has agreed to cease the use of co-op programs for roofing projects, it reserves the right to use competitively bid co-op programs for many of its other business functions, district spokeswoman Tracy Panzer said.

"The district continues to maintain the contract in question was awarded through a competitively-bid cooperative purchasing program administered by the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit (CSIU), which is permitted by the Commonwealth Procurement Code," Panzer said.

The Cumberland Valley School Board in February 2009 awarded a $1.5 million contract to Tremco/Weatherproofing Technologies Incorporated for repair work at Monroe and Silver Spring elementary schools and at the Eagle View Middle School.

The lawsuit challenged the board’s authority to choose Tremco through a co-op agreement run by the Association of Educational Purchasing Agencies, which consists of educational consortiums from across the country.

In February 2009, SynTec spokesman Tony Matter said the company was not seeking a monetary award from the suit, but was instead seeking a ruling from the courts that the district was incorrect in using such a program.

Matter added SynTec brought the suit not because it was displeased the repair work went to another contractor, but because of its belief that use of the program undermines the spirit of the state law that requires competitive bidding.

Debating the costs

In May 2009, DuCharme said his company could have done the repair work for far less than Tremco, especially because the roof at Eagle View was still under warranty at that time as a Carlisle SynTec product.

The cooperative purchasing program allows school districts the option to use recommendations by a third party. In this case, CSIU receives quotes from a wide array of contractors, both in-state and out-of-state, through the AEPA and selects one as a default for work done in that area of expertise.

In its press release Monday, SynTec mentioned how cooperative purchasing methods have come under fire across the country for subverting the competitive bidding process.

"Independent surveys have demonstrated that roofing work procured through a cooperative can cost two to three times the average market value," Peach said. "While the competitive bidding model requires a design professional to approve any structural alterations, cooperatives often do not, resulting in a dangerous lack of construction oversight."

Peach added legislation has been implemented in Virginia and California to prevent such practices, with ongoing policy discussions taking place in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Indiana, Texas and California.


Posted earlier on Cumberlink:

Cumberland Valley School District recently settled a lawsuit in which it agreed to stop using cooperative purchasing programs for roofing projects.

Nicholas Shears and Michael DuCharme, both employees of Carlisle SynTec Systems, filed the lawsuit in June 2009 which contends the district’s use of a purchasing cooperative skirts state competitive bidding laws, resulting in higher costs for taxpayers.

While the district admits no wrongdoing, it has agreed to comply with state competitive bidding laws and cease the use of purchasing cooperatives, SynTec spokesman Brandon Peach said in a press release issued Monday.

“We’re glad the school district understands it can save taxpayer money by competitively bidding projects requiring roof work to ensure that the most qualified option is selected,” said DuCharme, director of product marketing for the company.

“Unfortunately, the well-intended cooperative purchasing method has resulted in inflated costs due to the inherent complexity of construction work,” DuCharme added.

Check Cumberlink and Tuesday's print edition of The Sentinel for more on this story.

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