A Solid Proposal For a City on a Budget

Author: Carlton Purvis, Published on May 16, 2013

It is far too common to find RFPs and proposals with missing details, inadequate equipment, and out of date specs. Indeed, it is a top industry complaint. While we find a lot of examples of what not to do, recently we came across a good example of an uncommonly thorough proposal. For this note, we spoke with the integrator, Digital Surveillance Solutions (DSS) about a winning bid they put together for a small upstate NY city. 

The Proposal

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Comments (7)

Generally, you don't see lat level of detail for a $50,000 system proposal. In this case, the city paid the integrator $5K to do the study and prpare the proposal, so that explains the amount of detail. For a complemetary proposal, it's doubtful that many integrators will deliver that level of detail, including myself.

It's not very often you get a customer willing to pay for a a proposal and a study done by an integrator. More often than not, they will do an RFP to hire a professional engineer (that might not have a significant surveillance background) several times that amount to prepare (possibly inadequate) plans and specifications for a public bid. In the long run, the city propbably saved money, time and aggrivation with this delivery method. Conversely, The City of Hazelton did neither and they got what they paid for.

Just curious, did the integrator DSS have an existing continuing services contract with the City? Was the systems part of the project competitively bid? It's my experience that most city purchasing agents won't let a project go sole source without public bids unless the vendor has an existing fixed price continuing services contract with the city or a "piggyback"-able contract with another city or government entity that the city will accept.

I think most of the intergrators here would love to know more about the methodology of how they arranged this delivery method with the city and be able to apply that to their own business. Can you shed any light on that?

Hi John,

The integrator did have an existing contract with the city to maintain its original system. The new contract is separate from the old one, however. A request for bids was put out for this project, and from what I understand, the city specifically asked DSS to bid on this one.

It is an impressive proposal. However, for a $5000.00 fee to spec the system and a chance to bid I would have given them at least 60 pages in hand written calligraphy on gold leaf artisan paper in a leather bound work of art.

^^^ They'd probably ask for at least 5 copies in index tabbed 3 ring binders.

It is an impressive proposal. However, for a $5000.00 fee to spec the system and a chance to bid I would have given them at least 60 pages in hand written calligraphy on gold leaf artisan paper in a leather bound work of art.

Thus I would hope you would loose the contract for being too wasteful and "not being a green company". (insert sarcastic icon here)

My last proposal to a college campus was filled with example photos of the cameras and the views. Emphasis was on the zoomed in programmed set views for the tours they wanted. It was lost by the campus calling the camera and NVR manufacturers speaking to them directly without our input about the interoporability between the cameras and the NVR system. The NVR system said they didn't have an interface to the camera for programming.

If the campus had asked us, we had already addressed the issue and had a fix for it. Besides that, it was a new camera model from Pelco and the NVR manufacturer had not integrated it yet. The Pelco camera had a web interface that would work for now but the campus never asked before awarding the contract.

John Grocke,

Our customer the City of Saratoga Springs PD initially asked us to bid on the project as we did do some service work on their existing system. The told us they had 55K in grant money to spend and that they wanted 10 cameras spread out in the city. The asked...can you do it? We responded... "We don't know... we have to do the site assessment to figure it out". We described to them what the deliverables would be and that they could take the deliverables and have us do the implementation or someone else. We also told them, we can't give them the level of detail necessary for a successful project if they couldn't pay us for our time to do the research and create the proposal. If they chose to do implemenation with us, they could utilize the New York State buying contract, on which DSS participates. They agreed and the results are what you see here. Not every customer is wiling to do this but it certainly can be good business for both parties when they do.

In this situation I think the onus is on the customer to choose an integrator with the skill set and ethics to do a good job at a fair price.

What a bizarre concept that we should get paid (reasonably) for doing due diligence on research and design and then get to implement our plan!

Best Regards,

Mike Blumenson

President, DSS

Mike,

Yes, we should all get paid for doing this kind of work. I do work for many municipalities and from time to time have been successful with a somewhat similar approach. Unfortunately, it's more of the exception and not the rule.

It pays off to have a relationship with the customer and to be on a state contract or have municipal contracts that other localities and agencies can "piggyback" upon. It is a vital tool for doing business in the municiapal marketplace. Too often, many municiaplities have a "purchasing weenie" that demands that everything goes out to bid, usually without any specifications or plans, and that's where "Low Bid Security" (see City of Hazelton) does what they do. They get what thay pay for.

It's a beautiful proposal and I'm glad you got paid for the work that you put into it. The quality is better than what many engineers would provide. However, I doubt that many integrators would put that level of detail into a gratis proposal, for a $50K project. A $500K project, that might be a different story.

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