Lowest bid not always best deal

15 years ago

To the editor:
    A recent edition of The Star-Herald carried a most disturbing front-page story. The headline PUC’s bid decision may cost Boralex jobs is an understatement to say the least. There’s no way for a headline to tell the story of a small Aroostook County community fighting for its very existence. There’s no way to count the jobs of truckers, loggers, food store clerks, pharmacy staff, gas station attendants, road crews, and others dependent upon this local energy producer.     For years the local fire company has added equipment and educated their firefighters in support of this facility built for the conversion of energy from locally grown wood products into electricity to keep our homes and businesses alive. In her well-written article, Kathy McCarty could only hint at the magnitude of the decision with which our PUC has cursed us, citing a monetary savings of a mere “$2 a month on a $100 light bill.”
    The statute that requires the PUC to award contracts to the lowest bidders is outdated. Such a mandate that necessitates the shutting down of our own industries in favor of foreign commerce is by definition working against the people for whom it was written. To save a few dollars per kilowatt hour and usurp our ability to pay our utility bill is a fool’s errand. After talking to a staff lawyer of the PUC, Town Manager Dan Foster stated that “…awarding the Standard Offer contract to the lowest bidder…did not take into consideration how the local economy would be affected.” He further commented that if Boralex has no market for the electricity they produce, “there’s a flaw in the system.” Isn’t it the PUC’s purpose to advocate for the public – our public?
    On one hand we are a nation fighting a war within itself to right the wrongs that have plagued the United States for some time; a war against bad politics, poorly thought out laws, and illogical priorities. We have a new president whose actions and words show his desire to save the working class-the backbone of our country. We are faced with a whole new set of economic issues requiring careful scrutiny of policies that directly affect our industries.
    On the other hand we continue to use antiquated mandates that tie the hands of logical thinkers. Piece by piece, one community at a time, the decisions made by short-sighted politicians are eating away at our very lives. Awarding contracts beyond our borders in order to save a few dollars makes about as much sense as outsourcing our technological support positions to countries that pay their workers barely enough to feed their families.
    The question here is no less than that faced by our nation in 1773 when a group of audacious visionaries made a stand against a cause that threatened this young country’s ideals. Faced with doing business with a struggling East India Tea Company, even at the reduced rate, these citizens boarded three ships in Boston Harbor and threw the cargoes overboard making a stand against foreign involvement in the United States. They chose to deny themselves the pleasure of drinking tea in support of the bigger picture.
    We’ve come a long way in little more than 200 years. Today it’s nearly impossible to fill a grocery cart with all U.S. products. When faced with a choice between sardines from Scandinavia or those from Canada, my choice is to support our neighbor Canada. But when faced with supporting Canada’s government-owned energy producer NB Power or supporting a Maine producer, the logical choice, even at a higher rate, is Boralex. In the long run it will prove to be the less costly alternative.

Martie Pritchard