Rules for Missouri Ambulance Districts
An AD can purchase what it needs to get the job done (190.060.1); however, it is prudent for AD boards to adopt a formal purchasing policy. Examples of topics potentially included in a purchasing policy include:
- Avoiding conflicts of interest (105.454; 105.458.1; and 105.458.2)
- Avoiding double taxation of sales taxes and fuel excise taxes;
- Purchases cannot cause the budget to be exceeded (67.080);
- Standards for personal protective equipment (PPE);
- Regulatory reporting for certain purchases, e.g., reporting a new ambulance to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) within 90 days of acquisition (42 CFR § 424.516[d]);
- Commandeering products or services;
- Use of products from prison industries (217.575);
- Ensuring payment of materials for construction of public works, and for labor performed in such work, by requiring performance bonds for public works over $25,000 (107.170);
- Requiring contractors provide 10-hour safety training (292.675);
- Ensuring contractors’ employees have the right to work in the United States (285- 530);
- Certificates of workers compensation insurance for contractors (avoids the AD from potentially paying for such insurance during the annual workers compensation insurance audit);
- Liability insurance (105.1070-105.1079);
- Health insurance for public employees – competitive bidding required every three years (67.150);
- All other types of insurance – competitive bidding required every six years (376.696)
- Increased preference to service-disabled veteran businesses (34.74.3);
- Increased preference to products from organizations for the blind (34.165.1);
- “Buy America,” “Buy Missouri,” and use of certain Missouri products (34.350-34.359; 34.073.1, and 8.280, respectively);
- Proof that products were produced in the United States, or else the payment is illegal (34.355).
Nothing in the law spells out a threshold for when an AD has to advertise for bids on purchases of most goods or construction work. However, because taxpayer funds are involved, the AD should get the best possible deal — both in price and quality (quality usually being defined in specifications that the AD board approved and published before making the purchase).
Seeking bids by telephone or email is acceptable and is often necessary. However, phone and email bids should be treated exactly like written bids. Design a simple form for soliciting phone bids that lists the same information that would be provided in written bids, including the person calling for the AD, the firm called, the date, the person speaking for the vendor, what was offered and for what price.
Make a file folder for every item the AD bids. The folder should contain a copy of the announcement, the specifications, written bids received and telephone bids solicited, the affidavit of publication of the notice and, eventually, the contract. Keep specifications closed until public announcement of bid letting is made (610.021). Sealed bids can be kept closed until bid opening (610.021). It is advisable to seal phone bids in envelopes after the paperwork has been completed until the opening of all bids.
Every bid call should include the statement, “The AD reserves the right to reject any and all bids.” This is necessary because often bidders will offer to provide goods or services different from those the AD is seeking. If the bids received do not meet the specifications announced, the bids should be rejected, even though this slows down the process.
Appellate court decisions in recent years have given unsuccessful bidders standing to challenge a bid process, so formality and adherence to all adopted or otherwise required standards is critical.
Drawing specifications is not easy or simple. Suppliers will be glad to offer help, but be cautious about accepting it. Suppliers might write specifications so that only their product will qualify, nullifying the statutory “due opportunity for competition” mandate. The law forbids state purchasing from using brand names in bid specifications (34.060). This law might apply to ADs too, particularly for certain grant-funded purchases. As a part of state government, ADs can use state purchasing programs such as fleet fueling, specifications, and bids. Smaller ADs might also consult larger ADs within the state for specifications of similar products.
Do not assume only one supplier can furnish what the AD wants. Remember some years ago when it was exposed that military purchasers were buying exorbitantly priced toilets and tools through sole-source suppliers. Usually, more than one supplier can furnish an acceptable product. Search the Internet for possible suppliers. It can be surprising how many vendors are out there.
All contracts to which an AD is a party must be in writing and must be signed by authorized representatives of the parties involved. ADs are not required to pay for any product, good or service unless there is first a written contract. Missouri has a special rule on contracts that protects all local governments (432.070). Although private individuals and businesses can be held liable for oral agreements — such as a telephone order or a quasi-contract, where goods are delivered, unpacked and displayed for sale. Missouri governmental entities cannot be held liable for such agreements.
Thus, if an AD receives a bill for goods or services for which it does not have a written contract, it can refuse to pay the bill. The vendor must be able to produce a properly signed contract to collect the bill.
Prevailing wage must be paid on construction, reconstruction, improvement, enlargement, alteration, painting and decorating, or major repair of public works (290.210-340). Prevailing wage is defined as the “hourly rate of wages for work of a similar character in the locality in which the work is performed” (290.220). Missouri’s Prevailing Wage Law also applies to all public works projects on behalf of ADs, so having a company or organization construct the public works may not absolve an AD from paying prevailing wages.
Revisions to the prevailing wage law adopted in 2018 exempt projects under $75,000 and projects with engineering estimates not exceeding $75,000. Complicated rules and exceptions apply, so when work exceeds $75,000, including when a change order causes the project to go above $75,000, the AD’s legal counsel should be consulted on compliance
ADs thinking about a public works project should be familiar with a slew of other laws that may be applicable:
- Construction or renovation practices (8.677; 8.675-8.681; 34.057; 34.059.1; 34.076; 34.209; 290.550-290.550; 290.210-290.340; 292.675.2; 292.675.4);
- Engineering, surveying, and architectural services — interview and negotiate, not bid (8.285-8.291); and
- Ensuring payment of materials for construction of public works, and for labor performed for such work, by requiring performance bonds for public works over $25,000 (107.170).
Some public entities dodge bond issue requirements with lease-purchase arrangements. Such an agreement must be cancelable by a new board when elected, even if the members do not change. This puts the vendor at additional risk, which usually is factored into the price quoted. A board should enter into such agreements with caution (see Chapter XVII. Bond Issues for more information about bond issue requirements).