Originally created 05/28/03

School board decision angers computer seller



The Columbia County school board voted Tuesday night to buy 700 new computers, but once again, the purchase was not without controversy.

A local vendor who was shut out of the bidding process vowed to launch a challenge as he left the meeting.

"I'll be back," said ComputerOne owner Jimmy Bennett, who won the bid to supply computers to the schools last year after the original bid winner's product was found not to meet the system's needs.

This will be the third year Mr. Bennett has challenged the way the system buys its computers.

The school board voted to purchase the computers at a cost of $616,000, or $880 per unit, from the low bidder, CSI.

The good news for taxpayers is that the Compaq computers are $320 less than the $1,200 the system had expected to pay for each unit.

Board member Lee Muns cast the lone vote against accepting the bid.

After three years of controversy over its bidding process, the school system this year changed the way it solicits bids. Purchase requests were sent out through the Georgia Technology Authority and Western States Contracting Alliance, which have negotiated contracts with "tier one" vendors including HP/Compaq, Dell, and IBM.

These vendors referred the board to a re-seller, which actually submitted the bids. In the case of HP/Compaq, three companies submitted bids.

"Don't we have local vendors who sell Compaq?" Mr. Muns asked. "If we are going to be in a re-sell situation, why don't we deal with local vendors?"

Reach Melissa Hall at (706) 868-1222, ext. 113, or melhall@augustachronicle.com.