2015-10-30 / Front Page

Town will team with Texas on purchase

By Duke Harrington Staff Writer

KENNEBUNKPORT — Area towns have known for decades they can get better deals by buying in bulk when teaming together through interlocal agreements. But Kennebunkport is looking to save a few shekels by entering into a not-so-local agreement.

With a new fire truck on its wish list, the Kennebunkport Board of Selectmen has agreed to join a “government-to-government” procurement service run on the Houston-Galveston Area Council.

That’s right, Houston-Galveston. In Texas.

Known as HGAC Buy, the program is more than 30 years old, but has only recently found clients in Maine.

Kennebunkport Fire Chief Allen Moir said he learned of the program this past spring while talking shop with his peer, Saco Fire Chief John Duross.

“He told me this is how they’re going to be buying their new truck this year,” Moir told selectmen at their Oct. 8 meeting. “He said they are going to save considerable money this way versus over going out with the typical competitive bid. He figured somewhere between $30,000 and $50,000 he saved by doing it this way.”

Of course, Moir said, Kennebunkport doesn’t stand to save that much, if only because it is looking for something far smaller than the $500,000 fire truck Saco reportedly bought.

Still, there is money to me made. Or more correctly, not spent. According to Moir, Maine has a similar program through the Portland Council of Goverments, but doesn’t use it to get collective bids on trucks. Massachusetts does, but the Bay State collects upward of $5,000 as a fee on every purchase, Moir said.

“There’s a fee involved here, too, but the supplier pays it, and it’s only a couple of grand,” Moir said. “There’s nothing to this program other than making out an application and getting accepted and, from what I understand, everybody gets accepted because the more people they get the bigger the pool is to buy equipment.”

According to Moir, the program works because the manufacturers, such as the one his department prefers, Ferrara Fire Apparatus, are able to start with a standard chassis, which individual buyers are able to customize with different cabs, pumps, and other equipment.

Although each municipality in the HGAC Buy bid saves money, the manufacturers benefit by not having to deal with each town individually at the bidding stage.

“Every time they bid it, they have to put out a bond, they have to put up insurance, they have to do drawings, they have to write the specs, they have to check their specs against our specs,” Moir explained. “There’s all kinds of paperwork. Here they save a lot of money by just building a stock truck with a base price, and then you go from there.”

Moir said Kennebunkport would be able to customize the Ferrara chassis it might buy with equipment matching the department’s existing fleet.

With the current HGAC Buy round of cooperative bidding coming to a close, and amid the fear prices could escalate on the next round, selectmen readily agreed to have Moir apply to the program — especially after he said he’s already cleared it with the town attorney, who found no conflicts with Maine law in the interstate purchase.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Selectman Allen Daggett said.

“I don’t see any downside to this as all,” board Chairman Sheila Matthews-Bull said.

“No, none,” Selectman Stuart Barwise agreed.

In addition to Saco, Maine municipalities that have purchased items through the HGAC Buy program include Old Orchard Beach, Lewiston, Ellsworth, Freeport, Monmouth, Raymond and Skowhegan, as well as the Waterville Sewer District.

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