Monday, September 26, 2005

Less Notice of Construction Coming

Less Notice of Construction Coming

KWMU reports that the Governor's Government Review Commission has proposed changing the requirement that publicly-financed construction projects be advertised to the public.

One could argue the current law is antiquated. The law currently states any project over $25,000 must be advertised both in:

  • a newspaper in the county where the project is located; and
  • two newspapers in Missouri that have a circulation of at least 50,000.

    Sometimes, these requirements result in fairly small projects in outstate Missouri being advertised in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Kansas City Star.

    Given the format of most of these ads, they usually don't make it into online classified ads.

    However, the Governor's claim that the requirement adds to the cost of construction projects is a little ridiculous. How much do these ads cost, per project? Maybe $500 total? Probably less than that, given the limited circulation of many of the outstate community newspapers means their ad rates are relatively low.

    It seems reasonable to me to raise the threshold to $100,000, as proposed. However, I believe all projects with public funds involved that cost at least $100,000 should retain the notification requirement.

    If the ads in the statewide papers are dropped, as proposed, local governments must be required to post them on a web site! This would be a long overdue change in the law, which would make the info more accessible to prospective contractors across the country.

    The commission's proposal, however, does not do that. Instead, it seems to me an attempt to permit more no-bid contracting to political cronies of the governor, particularly in outstate counties, many of which are controlled by Republicans.

    After all, in (largely Democratic) StL and KC, the cost is halved anyway, because the local paper of the "county" in which the project is located already is one of the largest papers in the state. The main beneficiaries of this relaxation of the public notice requirement would be in outstate Missouri.

    As a result, many contracts in those counties could be done without a formal bidding process, because if the larger, big city contractors never found out about the projects, they would be more likely to go to friends of the county judges, for example. This would ultimately result in much more expensive public works projects.

    Meanwhile, the Post and the Star would be out significant amounts of ad revenue. Why wouldn't they put some pressure on the governor to reconsider this idea? Granted, their editorial boards lean more left than right; but hey, ad revenue is ad revenue, no matter who provides it.
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