QUEENSBURY — An emergency traffic light failure has led to one electrical company becoming the no-bid, sole source repairer for all of the town’s lights. It started on Jan. 30, when the light at Bay Road and Quaker Road had to be replaced on an emergency contract, without time to go out to bid.
“It was chaos,” Supervisor John Strough said when he described the light going out.
Not only is it a heavily trafficked area, but the highway department couldn’t repair the light.
“He can’t get parts for it,” Strough said of Highway Superintendent Dave Duell. There is no way to repair the system.”
So when it finally failed, Duell authorized an emergency repair instead of spending days or weeks soliciting bids.
“It was on an emergency basis for public safety,” Strough said.
The town spent $8,309 on the repair, which was performed over the course of eight hours by Stilsing Electric of Rensselaer. The company had to completely replace the traffic light cabinet and controller.
Duell also solicited bidders for another traffic light he knew would fail soon, at Bay Road and Haviland Road. That signal, near Town Hall, has failed in the past.
“Dave Duell and I have been here on the weekend to try to get the thing working. We’ve put out sand bags and stop signs and called guys to come in on overtime,” Strough said.
So Duell asked five companies for quotes. Stilsing was the only one to respond, Strough said.
“Dave tried to solicit multiple bidders to give us a quote,” he said.
On Monday, the Town Board agreed to accept Stilsing as the sole source provider for traffic light repairs because no one else had responded.
The company will “ensure that the town’s traffic lights will continue to operate in a safe and efficient manner,” the board decided in a resolution Monday.
For the light at Bay and Haviland Roads, Stilsing will be paid $13,050. The job is expected to take 16 hours and will require a whole new cabinet and controller. Those are expensive and make up most of Stilsing’s quote, at $10,950.
Board members did not object to the no-bid contract. They voted unanimously to waive the town’s purchasing policy, which requires two written quotes.
That policy allows the town to use a vendor that has been used on previous projects without soliciting multiple vendors. State law also allows towns to skip the bidding process on emergency and sole source provider contracts, and also only requires bidding for public works projects if they cost more than $35,000.
But the state Comptroller’s Office urges municipalities to get multiple bids whenever possible.
“One of the goals of seeking competition is to foster honest competition to enable your government to obtain quality commodities and services at the lowest possible cost,” the office published in a local government management guide. “Seeking competition also guards against favoritism, extravagance and fraud, while allowing interested vendors a fair and equal opportunity to compete.”