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  • Kevin Elliott

Rochester voters to decide charter change

Rochester voters November 6 will be asked to decide whether to amend the city's charter to remove specific expenditure thresholds and purchasing procedures and allow them to be set by city ordinance, or to maintain the status quo.

City council in October of 2017 first introduced an ordinance to raise the threshold for purchases requiring a competitive bid process from $2,000 to $15,000. That change came at the recommendation of Rochester City Attorney Jeffrey Kragt, who said the change stemmed from a review of policies and procedures that were put in place in 1965.

The threshold determines what purchases are required to go to competitive bidding by way of sealed bids and those on a smaller scale where pricing may be obtained through direct contact with the vendors to get pricing on a more informal basis. Lower cost items still require a purchase order.

While council subsequently passed the ordinance, the city's charter prescribes a purchasing policy with specific limits. Kragt at the time said the city should update its charter in the future to bring the process into alignment. That change must be approved by a vote of city residents.

Council in July 2018 approved a resolution to allow for the charter amendment to be placed on the ballot in this year's general election. The measure and ballot language were subsequently approved by the state.

Under the proposed amendment, the charter would state: "Before making any purchases or contract for supplies, materials, equipment, or contractual services, opportunity shall be given for completion, under such rules and regulations, and with such exceptions as Council has adopted by ordinance."

As the city's charter already allows that policy to be set by ordinance, the city is already operating under the updated ordinance that was introduced in 2017. However, the charter amendment would remove references to specific amounts.

Specifically, the additional language would be removed, as follows: "All expenditures for supplies, materials, equipment, or contractual services involving more than two thousand ($2,000.00) shall be made on written contract, and such contract shall be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder after such public notice and competition as may be prescribed by ordinance; Provided, however, that the Council shall have the power to reject all bids and advertise again. The Council shall provide, by ordinance, for the ordinary purchase procedure to be followed in purchasing City supplies."

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