Pratt city commissioners gave reluctant approval to waiving the usual bidding process for equipment needed to make changes and upgrades in the city's electrical power system to support new construction at Pratt Regional Medical Center.

In December, PRMC representatives approached the City Commission with a request that the city fund upgrades they said they became aware of only after the bond issue was passed. The Commission approved up to $300,000 in expenditures at that time, an amount that would nearly deplete reserve funds.

At Monday's meeting of the Commission, Kelly Hemphill, director of electrical utilities, said he needed to be able to speed up the process of acquiring the transformers, switches and other necessary equipment, in order to meet the hospital's plans to "turn the power on at the end of September."

Hospital engineers have not given him a full list of materials and specifications, so it will be necessary to order parts as specifications are provided.

Hemphill said he would request proposals from vendors the city normally uses — Stanion Wholesale in Pratt and Kriz Davis Company, a wholesale electrical supplier with several branches in Kansas — and would make the best choice with the advice of city staff, including Manager Dave Howard and financial personnel.

Howard said commissioners would be informed of purchases, but it might be after the fact.

"We're trying to accommodate the hospital," Howard said, noting that six weeks could be lost in a normal bidding process. "We want our goal to be if there are delays it's not because of us."

He also said that the hospital had not requested that the city change its method of doing business, and was not aware that a request for waiver was being made.

Although the commissioners voted in favor of a motion to waive the bidding process — Karen Detwiler qualifying her vote "with reservations — they expressed disapproval of the necessity of doing so.

"I think we should throw it back in the hospital's court to tell us what they need in a timely manner," Detwiler said. "I'm very disappointed the hospital can't get their act together in a timely manner."

In response to concerns raised by Commissioner Gary Skaggs and audience member Nelson Burrell about ordering "piecemeal" instead of "in a lump," both Hemphill and Howard said they did not believe the total cost would be greater.

City Attorney Ken Van Blaricum assured commissioners that ordering equipment as needed instead of submitting items for bid was "perfectly legitimate."

In other business:

Van Blaricum informed the commissioners that he was about ready to close on the purchase of property north of Lemon Park, but there were discrepancies in the acreage stated in the contract, resulting from an error when one railroad transferred property to another. Karen Konkel did not, as she believed, actually own the north five feet of the rectangle described in the contract as containing 2.63 acres. At his suggestion, commissioners voted to amend the contract.

Van Blaricum also reported that the city would realize about $20,250 from a settlement with Covenant Housing Corporation, and that in return, the city would drop its opposition to a tax exemption for the company that operates the Parkwood Village assisted living facility.

Commissioner Jeff Taylor expressed thanks to all the city workers who helped clear snow from city streets.

"They did a good job," he commended.