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Letter: When it comes to picking an official newspaper, the lowest bid is not always the best overall value

So which is the best deal for the taxpayers’ money? Price per inch or price per copy? These are the facts I must weigh before making a decision in my role as commissioner.

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WADENA — In a Jan. 5 Wadena Pioneer Journal front page article, it was said that “Two Wadena County commissioners wanted to buck tradition when it came to picking a county newspaper…” It went on to say, “that the Verndale Sun was the clear-cut winner.”

Then the Jan. 11 Verndale Sun headline read, “If you don’t take the lowest bid … why bid?”

I felt it was necessary to respond to these articles with a different view and explain why I voted the way I did. Do you think it’s that easy? How do you define the lowest bid? Is it simply by the cost per inch without considering anything else? Although there were multiple bids submitted for different items, I will use the Wadena County Annual Financial statement in my example. This is required by Minnesota Statute 375.17 to be published annually to inform the public.

In my example, the Verndale Sun bid $5 per column inch and the Review Messenger bid $5.50 per inch. Considering an average printing of 250 column inches, this would cost $1,250 in the Sun vs $1,375 in the Review Messenger.

If that is all you consider, the Sun is definitely lower. My reasons for voting the way I did were clearly stated at the meeting, including the fact that the Verndale Sun has 197 in-county subscribers, the Review Messenger has 1,149 in-county subscribers, and Wadena County residents are our intended audience.

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The purpose of publishing is to inform the public as required by law, and competitive bidding is to get the best value for the taxpayers’ money. In my above example, the cost for each in-county subscription of the Sun is $6.35 per copy but in the Review Messenger it would be $1.19 per copy with the much greater county wide coverage.

So, you tell me, which is the best deal for the taxpayers’ money? Which is the lower bid? Price per inch or price per copy? These are the facts I must weigh before making a decision in my role as commissioner.

For an analogy, let’s say you are planning a reception. One caterer will provide the food for $1,250 and another for $1,375. One is cheaper up front but then you find out that one will prepare meals for 197 guests and the other will provide the identical meals for 1,149 guests, the cheapest is no longer the best value.

Any business considers delivery numbers and their targeted market area when choosing advertising options. These are the things I also consider in my decision making.

To be clear, I don’t have anything against the Verndale Sun, in fact I have been a subscriber for years along with the Review Messenger and the Pioneer Journal. My concern is getting the best value for the tax dollars to get the mandated information out to the widest audience.

Considering Wadena County’s nearly $30 million budget, maybe informing the public using multiple publications is a worthwhile option.

If you disagree with me, please let me know why. Contact information for Wadena County commissioners is on the county website.

(Kangas represents District 5 on the five-member Wadena County Board)

Related Topics: COMMENTARYWADENA COUNTY
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