An estimated $13 million dollars has been saved over the life of the Morris County Cooperative Pricing Council (MCCPC). “As long as there is a demand for reducing costs and streamlining the purchasing process,” said Randolph Deputy Mayor Jay Alpert, “Randolph will continue to do its part in administering this 35 year old shared services success story.”
In 1974, under similarly difficult economic circumstances as those we’re currently facing, the MCCPC began when four Morris County Communities were looking for a way to reduce costs and streamline the process for municipal purchasing. Led by then Township Manager J. Peter Braun, Randolph Township took the lead and teamed up with Dover, Denville and Roxbury because they believed it would be in the best interests of their residents to form a cooperative pricing council. Today, this Morris County Cooperative Pricing Council stands at 209 members and what started with four contracts (gasoline, fuel oil, rock salt and snow grits) has grown to 59.
The desire for membership was the same in 1974 as it is today. Along with municipalities in Sussex, Hunterdon, Warren, Somerset, Passaic, Union and Essex Counties; Morris County uses the co-op as a way to pool their purchasing power to save thousands of dollars and streamline an otherwise costly purchasing process. The MCCPC extends beyond municipalities and now includes several school boards, municipal utility authorities, sewer authorities, housing authorities and counties. This regional approach to cost sharing allows municipalities to leverage the assets of Randolph in order to promote greater efficiency in their own purchasing process along with the dramatic increases in savings realized by participating in the MCCPC.
The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs recognizes the power of cooperative purchasing by noting that municipalities can expect lower bids when higher quantities can be aggregated. Although not required, the MCCPC asks all members to submit estimated quantity sheets for a number of bids so vendors have an idea on the amount of product they are bidding on. In a 2002 publication on cooperative purchasing, the DCA notes that “when local governments put aside provincial interests in exchange for the broader benefits to be achieved through Cooperative Purchasing, they can secure the provision and performance of goods and services at a lower cost.”
The cooperative bid activities are coordinated by Anita Doerr of Randolph Township and administered by Randolph Assistant Township Manager Gerald J. Giaimis. Membership is limited to those governmental entities that are located in counties that border Morris County as per Section 2-125 of the Revised General Ordinances of the Township of Randolph, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40A:11-11(5). The township uses its own staff to prepare and review bid specs and awards. Randolph prepares and reviews bids, makes awards, oversees complaints and handles all customer service related issues between members and vendors. The township’s legal staff handles all matters related to the MCCPC. All of this service is included to members for the nominal $1,100 annual fee.
For the nominal fee participating members enjoy the benefits of a less complicated solicitation process. Because Randolph acts as the lead agency, members avoid advertising bids, waiting for products, paying for legal and technical review of bids and awards, and incurring costs for potential legal challenges to awards. In addition, prices captured early in the year are locked in for 12 months without escalation therefore giving municipalities the tools necessary to budget in advance for projects such as road resurfacing. Participating member municipalities save money by not having to go out to bid for a variety of projects including office supplies, police and municipal vehicles, road resurfacing projects, rock salt, DPW equipment; and over 50 more contracts.
In 2008 the MCCPC went live on the internet. With the help of former Assistant Township Manager Thomas Russo and Randolph’s Webmaster Pavia Kriegman, the web site gives members access to contracts, bid awards, membership lists and more. Vendors have access to the same information and are also able to download PDF versions of the bid specifications and proposal forms associated with the fifty-nine contracts currently administered by the MCCPC. The office of the Assistant Township Manager in Randolph oversees this endeavor by preparing all of the documents to be placed on the MCCPC web page for publication. The nominal cost of maintaining this website saves countless hours and costs of printing and mailing bids, estimated quantity sheets and notification of awards.
In today’s economic climate taxpayers are demanding that municipalities cut costs. This challenge becomes increasingly difficult when municipal governments control only a small portion of their municipal budgets. As a result, it is difficult to significantly reduce operating costs without noticeably reducing government services. Moreover, officials in the various school boards and other public entities are facing the same budget crunch as municipal officials and need to be creative when preparing their budgets for voter approval. Whether it is a municipality being able to pass on their savings to fixing up roads or increasing recreation opportunities; or a school board being able to put more money into the classroom, being a member of the MCCPC will undoubtedly reduce operating costs to any public entity involved. Every single member of a local governing body or school board whose municipality is a participating member can point to a direct reduction of costs.
Local officials are facing the same tough choices now as they were in 1974. The Mayor and Council of Randolph Township have historically recognized their roles as leaders in this shared services effort. The township staff who are pivotal in administering the Co-Op understand their role as employees extends beyond Randolph and their work on the MCCPC affects thousands of New Jersey citizens served by the 209 participating members. Randolph Township Manager John Lovell notes that, “the Morris County Cooperative Pricing Council has become synonymous with Randolph and as the Township Council continues to support this program; and as the years go on, we hope to grow even more.”
Cooperative purchasing agreements such as this are one example where members of the MCCPC can point directly to the amount of savings they realize by virtue of their membership.
For more information, please visit www.mccpc.org
This article was originally published in New Jersey Municipalities magazine. Vol. 86, No. 4, April 2009