Rules for Missouri Fire Protection Districts
Parenthetical numbers in the text refer to sections of the current Revised Statutes of Missouri, abbreviated as RSMo.
For purchases of $10,000 or more of goods or construction work, a fire protection district is required to “publish” its specifications before making the purchase. No one knows exactly what this requirement means because it has not been litigated, but most fire district attorneys assume it means that you must:
- Advertise for bids
- Take the “lowest and best” bid if the price is $10,000 or more [321.220(4)].
It is prudent for fire district boards to adopt a formal ordinance outlining the district’s purchasing policy. The Missouri Association of Fire Protection Districts provides a sample ordinance that can be used as a guide in the members-only section of its website, http://mafpd.org.
Phone and email bids
Seeking bids by telephone or email is acceptable and is often necessary. However, phone and email bids need to be treated exactly like written bids. Design a simple form for soliciting phone bids that lists the same information that would be provided in written bids, including the person calling for the district, the firm called, the date, the person speaking for the vendor, what was offered and for what price.
Make a file folder for every item that the district bids. The folder should contain a copy of the announcement, the specifications, written bids received and telephone bids solicited, the affidavit of publication of the notice and, eventually, the contract. Specifications can be kept closed until public announcement of bid Ietting is made [610.021(11)]. Sealed bids can be kept closed until bid opening [610.021(12)]. Sealing phone bids after the paperwork has been completed until the opening is advisable.
Every bid call should include the statement, “The district reserves the right to reject any and all bids.” This is necessary because often bidders will offer to provide goods or services different from those the district is seeking. If the bids received do not meet the specifications announced, the bids should be rejected, even though this slows down the process.
Drawing specifications is not easy or simple. Suppliers will be glad to offer help, but be cautious about accepting it. Suppliers might write specifications so that only their product will qualify, nullifying the statutory “due opportunity for competition” mandate. Fire district boards can find guidance on bid specifications on the Missouri Association of Public Purchasing website, http://mappi.org. The Missouri Office of Administration purchasing site, http://oa.mo.gov/purch, shows how state bids are written. Board members might also consult a larger fire department within the state.
Do not assume that only one supplier can furnish what the district wants. Remember some years ago when it was exposed that military purchasers were buying exorbitantly priced toilets and tools through sole-source suppliers. Usually, more than one supplier can furnish an acceptable product. Search the Internet for possible suppliers — you’ll be surprised how many vendors are out there.
Contracts must be in writing
All contracts to which a fire district is a party must be in writing and must be signed by authorized representatives of the parties involved. Fire districts are not required to pay for any product, good or service unless there is first a written contract. Missouri has a special rule on contracts that protects all local governments (432.070). Although private individuals and businesses can be held liable for oral agreements — such as a telephone order or a quasi contract, where goods are delivered, unpacked and displayed for sale — Missouri governmental entities cannot be held liable for such agreements.
Thus, if a fire district receives a bill for products, goods or services for which it does not have a written contract, it can refuse to pay the bill. The vendor must be able to produce a properly signed contract to collect on the bill.
Prevailing wage must be paid on construction of public works (290.230). Prevailing wage is defined as the “hourly rate of wages for work of a similar character in the locality in which the work is performed” (290.220).