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County maintains effort to increase efficiency

Posted: January 17, 2012 5:16 p.m.
Updated: January 18, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Kershaw County continues to look for cost-saving measures after the success of a reverse auction last fall for the bulk purchase of paper.

The county ordinarily uses a sealed bid process to obtain goods and services from companies, but through the use of reverse auctions, companies must compete in a bidding process online to obtain contracts with the county.

The county worked with eBridge, a Kentucky-based company, during the reverse auction for the bulk paper. Assistant County Administrator Allen Trapp said the company is very knowledgeable of the process.

“eBridge tells the companies that the bid is going to open on a certain day and at a certain time and when it does, it all runs live, they all get their bids in, and then the clock starts running. It’s very quick. It’s better than a sealed bid process because when it’s live, it creates a more competitive situation,” Trapp said.

He said the process puts the county in a better position as a buyer because bidders must compete in such a quick environment to produce the lowest price.

Tim Naehring, eBridge’s business development manager for the South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia regions, said the bidding process is different from typical online bidding websites.

“It depends on how large the bid is, but it will usually start off with the bidding starting out at a 15- to 30-minute opening. And unlike eBay, if someone puts in a bid in the final three minutes, it extends for another three minutes,” Naehring said.

Naehring added that reverse auctions are often used by Fortune 500 companies, but are increasingly being used by government and health care entities.

“Within private industry, they have the opportunity of negotiating. But traditionally with government purchasing, they don’t have a lot of negotiating power. They pretty much get a sealed bid and they’re good to go. So this gives governments an opportunity to use the fact that they’re large entities and they have a lot of purchasing power so they can flex their muscle and do that as well.”

County Administrator Vic Carpenter said the county will also continue to work with other governmental entities, including the city of Camden, Kershaw County School District and KershawHealth, through a collaboration known as the “Synergy Task Force.”

“We’re really trying to look into any areas of operation where there is an overlap in mission or mechanism or purpose,” Carpenter said.

The four entities worked together on the bulk paper purchasing project as part of the countywide partnership.

Carpenter said the effort helped save the county around $15,000 over a six-month period.

“As far as the buying of paper, it was a commodity we all used and we didn’t have any special limitations on how we had to purchase it so that made it, if you want to call it, a ‘low-hanging fruit,’” Carpenter said. “It was something that we could pick at easily that allowed us to work together on something.”

Carpenter noted the county overall doesn’t have a specific cost-saving goal in place, but will continue to aim for a more efficient county government through techniques like the reverse auction.

“We don’t have a goal of eliminating anything or a goal of shutting anything down, but efficiency is certainly a desired outcome,” he said.

Kershaw County Council Chairman Gene Wise, who created the Synergy Task Force, said by collaborating with other entities and by using reverse auctions, county government can incorporate some aspects of the private business sector.

“It’s an opportunity to save money by getting the same product at a significant discount,” Wise said.

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