Berlin Approves New Purchase Policy

BERLIN – In an effort to update town policy and promote sustainability, Berlin officials approved a new purchasing policy last week.

The town council voted unanimously to approve a new purchasing policy that increases the purchasing threshold, expands the use of credit cards and promotes green purchasing.

Town Administrator Laura Allen said the most significant change the policy included was the increase of the town’s purchasing threshold from $1,000 to $10,000. Instead of presenting the council with purchase orders for items above $1,000, she’ll now only need to approach them with purchases exceeding $10,000. She said nearby municipalities including Ocean City and Princess Anne — as well as Worcester County — had $10,000 thresholds. She added that Berlin’s $1,000 limit had been in place for 28 years.

Allen said purchases below $10,000 would be handled by a department director or the town administrator. A regular report of those purchases will be provided to the town council, however.

The new policy also requires purchases between $5,000 and $10,000 go through an informal bid process. Employees are expected to check prices with various vendors before making a purchase.

“It provides for an informal bid process,” Allen said. “We still need to have documentation.”

Councilman Dean Burrell spoke in support of the requirement.

“We still have to do price comparison to make sure we’re trying to get the biggest bang for our buck,” he said.

Allen said the new policy would enable more employees to use credit cards. Town issued credit cards will be provided to the town administrator, department directors, superintendents and the administrative assistant in Berlin Town Hall.

“It would also enable staff to use credit card for lower value purchases to save money on check cashing costs,” Allen said.

The new purchasing policy also encourages town employees to take sustainability into account. The policy is designed to “foster green purchasing” that takes materials, packaging and production into account as well as the purchase of recycled products when practicable.

Steve Farr, a town resident and development director for Assateague Coastal Trust, praised the language.

“I think it’s the right thing to do and it’s not binding the town to buy more expensive products if it doesn’t make sense,” he said.

Farr added that it tied in with the town’s Sustainable Maryland initiative.

“They have a variety of resources to help explore what alternative products might be available in the future,” he said.