Windsor enters agreement with procurement consultant

Published 8:34 am Monday, December 11, 2023

The town of Windsor has prepared for smaller project procurement solicitations that are upcoming by bringing on an independent contractor who can create solicitation documents and who can also craft a set of terms and conditions on behalf of Windsor, outlining what the town wants to see in a contract or solicitation for the town.

William Saunders

The Windsor Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday, Nov. 14, to enter a contract procurement agreement as proposed by Town Manager William Saunders for a procurement consultant, with the understanding that a line item will be generated in the budget so that the council can track the costs incurred by the consultant.

In a Nov. 14 staff report addressed to the mayor and Town Council, Saunders noted that large project procurement solicitations in the town of Windsor are typically created and administered by the consulting firms that design those projects. 

“There are smaller solicitations on the horizon for the town where assistance in creating solicitation documents, and a set of terms and conditions for the town, by a procurement professional would be advantageous,” he stated.

He provided an agreement enclosed in the council meeting packet that was for professional assistance with procurement documents and solicitations that would be administered in-house.

The proposed agreement was with Sonja Simpson, who has recently retired as a procurement professional and who Saunders noted is willing and able to assist the town with these tasks.

The staff report included the following statement from Simpson, speaking to her experience and credentials:

“I have 21 years of experience in local government, which includes oversight and management of the procurement division, preparation and negotiation of complex procurements, as well as developing, revising, implementing and providing instructional training of procurement policies and procedures.

“I recently retired from the city of Newport News, having served as their procurement administrator for five years where I was responsible for the effective supervision of the senior buyers and assigned assistant buyers to include conducting reviews of procurement and staff work to ensure compliance with city code, laws, regulations and procedures. Previously, I worked for the town of Smithfield for 17 years, serving as the contracts/procurement administrator for approximately 13 years. 

“I have extensive knowledge of governmental procurement principles, procurement law and contract law. I am a Certified Professional Public Buyer (CPPB), Virginia Contracting Master (VCM) and a Virginia Contracting Officer (VCO) and have completed the FEMA Procurement Disaster Training.”

Saunders said, “She’s got all of the Virginia certifications that you can get for purchasing and procurement, and I worked with Mrs. Simpson at the town of Smithfield when I was there, and her capabilities and ethics are second to none, and I wouldn’t hesitate to use her to assist us with procurement and procurement-related work here at the town, if it is the town’s desire.”

J. Randy Carr

Windsor Vice Mayor J. Randy Carr asked Saunders how this request came about.

“She’s got the credentials and everything,” Carr said of Simpson. “Is it something that’s going to help you out and the staff here at the town to get the documentation passed through faster? What is your purpose, what is your meaning?”

Saunders said, “One of the things I’m looking for is a set of terms and conditions for the town.”

He cited, as an example, the Duke Street and Virginia Avenue Water Main Replacement Project and the consultant firm that has worked on that project.

“They created the plans, they put the bid documents together, they administered the request for proposals,” Saunders said. “They used basically their set of terms and conditions. 

“So one of the things in the scope is I would like to create a town of Windsor set of terms and conditions that’s just ours,” he continued. “We might tweak it for a particular solicitation, but it’s basically the things that we want to see in a contract or solicitation for the town. 

“But as I said, a lot of these big projects, the consultants that you’re paying are putting these big solicitations together for you,” he added. “But we have some smaller things that we need to get done to expend the balance of our (American Rescue Plan Act) funds that I think it would just be more efficient, and it would be a force multiplier to have her to work on these procurements for us.”

Carr said, “Would this be somebody that would be on staff full time or might be when we need it?”

“It would likely all be remote work, contract work,” Saunders said. “She would only be a contractual employee, no benefits. She would only be paid the hours that she’s working on our procurement work, and for these ARPA projects, the ARPA money would be paying, it would be part of the cost of the project. But it could be done quicker and better than we could do it in-house.”

Walter Bernacki

In terms of the work Simpson would do, Councilman Walter Bernacki questioned how this work is handled currently by the town, asking Saunders if he would be the one to create a solicitation document.

“I have not had to do one since I’ve been here,” Saunders said. “The only ones that we’ve done were on larger projects where the consultants we already had on retainer were doing it as part of the larger project. I’d like to have the capability to do some smaller ones that we administer the solicitation in-house but she helps us put the documents together.”

Councilman David Adams said the arrangement Saunders was recommending sounded similar to the one that is helping to facilitate the Windsor Police Department’s accreditation — an independent contractor agreement.

David Adams

“Will there be a line item in the financial report to show these independent contractors, how they’re charging?” Adams said. “Will we know how much (for) each one, or is it just going to fall into Salaries and Wages?”

Saunders said, “No, it wouldn’t be Salaries and Wages, but we could create I’m sure a line in the budget if you would like to have that to track it.”

“I think I’d like to see that just to see how much we’re spending,” Adams said, and Bernacki added, “That’s a good idea.”

Citing a benefit from having this information, Adams said, “If it comes to the point where they’re working a lot more hours than we anticipated, maybe it then becomes … ‘OK, we don’t need an independent contractor; we need an actual (employee) now.’”

Bernacki asked Windsor Town Attorney Fred Taylor if he had looked over the agreement. Taylor said he had and that the agreement would allow significant flexibility for the town, stating that whether it is for budgeting reasons or really any reason at all, if Windsor reaches the point where the relationship with the consultant is not working out, the town would be well within its rights to terminate the agreement at any time. 

“The person serves at your leisure,” Taylor said.

Bernacki said, “I make a motion we enter the contract procurement agreement as proposed by the town manager for the procurement consultant but with the understanding that a line item will be generated in the budget so that we can track those costs.”

Adams seconded the motion, and the 6-0 vote immediately followed.