Seven hundred new computers will soon be unloaded at Columbia County schools, but the good news for taxpayers is that each machine will cost $320 less than was expected.
The Columbia County School Board voted Tuesday night to buy 700 new Compaq computers from the low bidder CSI, of Easley, S.C., at a cost of $880 per unit - a total cost of $616,000. The school system had budgeted $1,200 per computer.
Last year, the school system ordered 538 computers from ComputerOne owner Jimmy Bennett at a cost of $1,140 each, and in 2001-2002, the school system ordered 961 computers at $1,038 each.
CSI has also offered to extended the $880 unit price to school system employees and pupils.
But the purchase was not without controversy. Board member Lee Muns voted against it.
A local vendor who was shut out of the bidding process vowed to launch a challenge as he left the meeting.
"I'll be back," said ComputerOne owner Jimmy Bennett, who won the bid to supply computers to the schools last year after the original bid winner's product was found not to meet the system's needs.
This will be the third year Mr. Bennett has challenged the way the system buys its computers.
After three years of controversy over its bidding process, the school system this year changed the way it solicits bids. The system this year sent out purchase requests through the Georgia Technology Authority and Western States Contracting Alliance, which have negotiated contracts with "tier one" vendors including HP/Compaq, Dell, and IBM.
These vendors then referred the board to a re-seller which actually submitted the bids. In the case of the HP/Compaq, three companies submitted bids.
"Don't we have local vendors who sell Compaq?," asked Muns. "If we are going to be in a re-sell situation, why don't we deal with local vendors?"
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