Rules for Missouri Townships
Since 1998, townships have been specifically included in the same requirements for seeking bids as are counties (50.660). Any purchase of $6,000 or more must be bid. Public announcement of a bid must be published in a newspaper, with the specifications for what is being purchased, the closing date for bids and the date of the bid opening.
Statutes say "to the lowest and best bidder." All bid announcements should include this "and best" phrase to cover situations where a bidder promises more than they can deliver, or to prevent a vendor of inferior product or services succeeding over responsible vendors. The statute goes on to say "after due opportunity for competition." This sometimes is difficult for a township.
There is nothing wrong with seeking bids by telephone. Often this is necessary for entities like townships that lack offices and regular business hours. However, phone bids need to be treated exactly like submitted written bids. Design a simple form for soliciting phone bids that lists the person calling for the township, the firm called, the date, the person speaking for the vendor, what was offered and for what price — the same information that would be on written bids. (See sample PDF form.)
Make a file folder for every item that the township bids. The folder should contain a copy of the announcement, the specifications, written bids received and telephone bids solicited. Eventually, the contract will be added to the file, along with the affidavit of the notice's publication. Specifications can be kept closed until public announcement of the bid-letting is made (610.021). Sealed bids can be kept closed until bid opening (610.021). It is a good idea to seal phone bids — after the paperwork has been completed — until the opening.
Every bid call should include the words, "The township reserves the right to reject any and all bids." This is necessary because often bidders will offer to provide different things than what the township is seeking. If the bids received do not meet the specifications announced, the bids should be rejected, even though it slows down the process.
It is not easy or simple to draw specifications. Suppliers will be glad to offer help, but be cautious if this is done. The supplier could arrange specifications so that only their product would qualify, nullifying the statutory "due opportunity for competition" mandate.
Do not assume that only one supplier can furnish what the township wants. Keep in mind, it was through using sole-source suppliers that military purchasers were able to buy $600 toilets. There is almost always more than one supplier who can furnish an acceptable product.
All contracts to which a township is a party must be in writing and must be signed by authorized representatives of the parties involved. Contracts must provide for "consideration wholly performed or executed subsequent to the making of the contract ..." Further, contracts must be "within the scope" of the township's powers or "expressly authorized by law" (432.070).