Friday, March 5, 2004
Cooperative purchasing helps area towns save big dollars
Metropolitan Boston towns have found they can save as much as 78% on the annual cost of office supplies by bidding collectively. Joint purchasing has been used as means of cutting costs, increasing services and improving efficiency for towns within the MAGIC (Minuteman Advisory Group on Interlocal Coordination) area for several years. Through the MAPC (Metropolitan Planning Council) Service Consortia, towns have been purchasing a wide variety of goods and services, including paper and office supplies, sand and salt, fuel, equipment, GIS staff, training and equipment, grant writing services, solid waste contracts, training activities, interlocal transit, hazardous material disposal, and computer training.
How the consortia works
Information about the various consortia was presented to area selectmen and planners at a breakfast meeting on February 10 by Steve Daly, who heads up MAPC's Service Consortia. He said any MAGIC town is eligible to use the Consortia and the process usually begins by contacting him. Towns are not obligated for any area or volume of participation, which means that a MAGIC town could enter into a contract drawn up by a South Shore group.
Contracts are usually drawn up for either a fiscal or calendar year or a specific service. The member's annual fee is $4,000, but the fee is usually offset by the savings. One South Shore administrator commented that they spend $4,000 on the annual membership fee and save $60,000 on purchases. Daly said the size of a particular town or the order it places is not as important as the group that is put together for bidding.
Representatives from some towns that have already used the Consortia say that, "The turf battle is a major obstacle" in cooperative purchasing. However, at this time, the opportunity for saving money takes priority over any the turf obstacles, and participation in the Consortia is growing.
Carlisle a pioneer in cooperative purchasing
In 1998 Carlisle and Acton made a cooperative purchase of road salt. In the spring of 1998 Carlisle agreed to be the lead community bargaining for the joint purchase of gasoline and diesel fuel. At that time Stow, Concord, Hudson, Maynard and Acton expressed interest in participating. But by June of 1998, Carlisle Town Administrator David DeManche, who was heading the joint purchase effort, reported only one company bid and the quote was too high. That first effort was then abandoned.
Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie, said in a telephone interview that Carlisle is not a member of the Consortia at this time because the $4,000 membership fee is not offset by the savings a town of this size could get on its purchases.
© 2004 The