Board of Supervisors to consider changes to Humboldt County spending policy; tsunami preparedness week presentation to address safety measures

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors will discuss whether to pass a uniform purchasing policy at its Tuesday meeting that would set guidelines on how the county can use taxpayer dollars when paying for goods and services.

The policy would alter purchasing thresholds for expenditures such as hiring independent contractors and consultants, and small value purchases such as office supplies. For small value purchases, the policy would increase the spending threshold from $500 to $1,000, which 1st District Supervisor and Board Chairman Rex Bohn said is a "sign of the times."

"Expenses have gone up," Bohn said. "Most everything we're talking about has doubled in price. You used to be able to buy four tires for $400. Now it's close to $1,000."

Bohn increasing the threshold would reduce the amount of staff time used for spending oversight and bidding procedures, therefore reducing county costs.

"These are tight budget times, and we're watching every dime," Bohn said. "It's a balancing act. You want to make sure you get the best price, but are not spending more money on oversight than you're saving."

As oversight costs increase for large value expenditures -- partly due to longer bidding processes -- 3rd District Supervisor Mark Lovelace said raising the threshold for small purchases would work with the county's "goal of efficiency in saving money."

"As a public entity, we have an obligation to be good stewards of the public's money, and must demonstrate that," Lovelace said. "All of the oversight that is required to show we are good stewards costs the public money."

In order to implement this increase for small purchases into the new policy, the board must pass an ordinance which will also be discussed during the meeting.

Other changes in the policy would include adding stronger language supporting the goal of providing "local vendors the opportunity to participate" in bidding procedures and be considered for smaller value purchases, according to the staff report.

Bohn said the county already has "preferred vendors" implemented for most small value goods and services, but said "our focus on purchasing from local vendors doesn't change at all."

If adopted, the new policy would also repeal the board's adopted 2008 policy for making more environmentally friendly spending decisions, but will restate it in the new uniform policy.

Earlier in the meeting, representatives from the Redwood Coast Tsunami Work Group will give a presentation on tsunami preparedness week -- which lasts from March 23 to March 29 -- and will update the board on the county's current tsunami safety measures.

The presentation was planned long before the 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck off the North Coast on March 9, but Lovelace said the quake will reinforce the message of tsunami awareness.

"I think the timing of this will emphasize the importance of why we are constantly stressing tsunami preparedness," Lovelace said. "If you live in a tsunami zone and feel the earth shaking, that's a sign for you to get out of there."

Even though there was no tsunami warning put into effect, Bohn said it does not mean it cannot happen.

"It's not if it will happen; it's when," Bohn said. "We tend to take tsunamis as, 'Yeah, whatever.' But when it does happen, you better have an idea of where the higher ground is."

If you go:

What: Board of Supervisors meeting

When: 9 a.m. Tuesday

Where: Supervisors' chamber, first floor, Humboldt County Courthouse, 825 Fifth St., Eureka

The full agenda can be viewed online at

Will Houston can be reached at 707-441-0504 or Follow him on