SNOW HILL – In an effort to standardize equipment, county leaders bypassed low bids to purchase two John Deere tractors.
The Worcester County Commissioners voted last week to spend $117,543 to purchase two John Deere tractors from Atlantic Tractor in Salisbury. The decision came at the suggestion of Commissioner Merrill Lockfaw, who served as Worcester County’s roads superintendent for 19 years prior to his retirement.
“I personally feel we should continue with John Deere,” Lockfaw said. “We could maintain a lower inventory of parts and have that guarantee of service when needed.”
John Tustin, the county’s director of public works, presented the commissioners with bids from four vendors interested in providing the two tractors needed by Worcester County. He recommended the county go with the lowest bid, $106,600 for two Massey Ferguson tractors, but said he didn’t object when Lockfaw advocated for John Deere models.
Lockfaw said that during his time supervising the county’s roads division, staff had used New Holland and John Deere tractors.
“We did have issues having two different models of tractors,” he said.
He said the county had had to have twice as many parts on hand, as each brand had different components. He said that by moving toward John Deere tractors alone, the maintenance process would run more smoothly. He said John Deere parts were available the fastest and that those tractors were serviced by a number of repair shops on the Eastern Shore.
He stressed the importance of quick repairs when they were needed.
“We’ve got 440 miles of road,” he said. “You multiply that twice—two sides of the road—and you’re making more than one pass…You really can’t afford for those tractors to be down in the summer time.”
Tustin said standardization was a great tool and that he had no objection to purchasing John Deere tractors but pointed out that it would hurt the competitive bid process.
Kelly Shannahan, the county’s assistant chief administrative officer, agreed.
“That would be my concern, that we’d take the competitive nature out of it,” he said. “If Atlantic Tractor knows that we sole source to John Deere, we’ve got a $117,000 price on this one but I’d anticipate that price will go up in the years to come if they know they’re the only game in town.”
Commissioner Ted Elder asked if the county could seek bids in the future from other John Deere dealers in addition to Atlantic Tractor. Tustin assured him the county would, although the other dealers weren’t local.
Commissioner Joe Mitrecic pointed out that even if the county did opt to only purchase John Deere tractors, there would still be multiple bids, as there were dealers in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia.
“Just because we specify the make and model doesn’t mean it’s not going to be competitive anymore,” he said.
The commissioners voted unanimously to approve a motion to purchase two John Deere tractors from Atlantic Tractor for $117,543.