Sunnyside School District Superintendent Dr. Rick Cole took the blame during a special meeting of the Sunnyside School Board last night for the confusion that has arose over a series of car bids for the Migrant Student Data and Recruitment (MSDR) office, formerly known as the Migrant Student Record Systems (MSRS).
The confusion over the car bids came about during the school board's February meeting, which Cole was unable to attend because of a personal commitment.
At the February board meeting, the local directors opted to approve the purchase of a pair of Toyota Camry vehicles from a dealership in Yakima at a price of $20,195 per car. There were two significantly lower bids before the board at the February meeting, but the directors opted to go with the Camrys because the MSDR program wanted to have the vehicles available immediately for use.
MSDR employees travel across the state tracking the educational progress of migrant students. Under a directive from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), MSDR Director Lee Campos was looking to have the school district purchase vehicles his department could lease. Under the terms of the agreement, the MSDR program would pay for all costs associated with leasing the vehicles from the school district.
The Sunnyside School District serves as the fiscal agency for the MSDR program.
OSPI wanted the MSDR program to obtain new vehicles to cut down on the significant mileage checks that were being issued to the recruiting staff for utilizing their personal vehicles. MSDR has five recruiters who travel around the state.
"Upon review it appeared some confusion occurred," said Cole during Wednesday night's special board meeting.
Cole said there was some confusion over the bid specifications for the vehicles.
Bid specifications for the cars the district was seeking to buy included cruise control, fabric cloth seats, solar energy absorbing glass, a holder for sunglasses, perimeter anti theft alarm system and a center console armrest. Other specifications include general items such as air bags and a spare tire.
Cole told the board after reviewing the process that was used with the vehicle bids his suggestion was to reject the offer the board approved at the February meeting and put the vehicles out to bid again with clearer specifications.
"We have got to clear up our bid specs," said Cole.
The school district purchased late last year two vehicles already in possession of the MSDR program. The vehicles the migrant program currently have went unbidded, said Cole, because the district wasn't required to put the cars out to bid because the amount of the purchase didn't exceed $50,000. Cole explained that the board has to put out to bid any project or purchase that exceeds $50,000 to ensure public money is being used appropriately. The district had to put the latest pair of vehicles the migrant program is seeking to obtain out to bid because the amount exceeds the $50,000 limit when combined with the previous purchase of two vehicles.
Sunnyside School Board Director Fred Kilian, who was also unable to be in attendance at the February meeting, said last night he wanted to be sure the district puts the vehicles out to bid appropriately.
"I don't want it to get to the point where it looks like we are fixing the bids," said Kilian. "We don't need chrome. We don't need chrome wheels. We just need something that drives up and down the road."
Fellow board member Bill Smith said he voted to approve purchasing the Camrys because he was under the impression the MSDR program needed the vehicles immediately. Smith said it was his understanding the Camrys were available to pick-up off the Yakima lot within a few days while it would have taken a couple of months to get the cars from the other bidders.