This is the third year the Columbia County School System has had controversy involving its annual computer purchases.
This year, the apparent low bidder was rejected by the Board of Education after the company's computer was tested and found to not meet bid specifications - there were no outlet ports in the keyboard.
But in performance testing, the school system also discovered a mistake in the specifications it had sent out to vendors. The monitor on the computer it was testing did not have speakers or a sound card, though it was one of the models the specs had recommended.
"We were somewhat surprised to learn that the monitor in the bid specs did not have speakers, as was called for," said School Superintendent Tommy Price. Jimmy Bennett of Computer One/MaxGroup Corp. protested the bidding process - for the second year in a row - at the July 23 meeting after the board tentatively approved giving the deal to Concentric Systems, Inc. which submitted a low bid of $1,009 per machine.
"The bid package was beautiful, easy to fill out, but the specs stunk," he told the board. "One of the motherboards that was recommended is not even for sale in the United States. The specs were vague and open to interpretation. I'm not comfortable biding something with no specs, it's like saying build me a house. I can build you a stick house or a mansion."
The board rescinded its motion at a called meeting Aug. 7, after testing of the Concentric model revealed the problems. The school system then awarded the bid to Computer One (the fifth lowest bidder based on unit price), pending testing of the computer it offers.
There were 18 companies that submitted bids to provide 665 computers to the school system, ranging from the low bid of $1,009 to $1,549 per machine. The school system had budgeted $1,200 per machine, so any bid above that was immediately eliminated. The six bidders that fell within the price range were also ranked. Since the board threw out the low bid, it then went with Computer One, which was ranked #2 on the list.
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