Contracts gone awry: Trenton almost without toilet paper

Trenton's city buildings almost went without toilet paper earlier this month because of contractual problems. The city council rejected a proposed contract for paper products because of the price of hot-drink cups. In response, the mayor's office simply removed that item from the proposed contract without allowing re-bidding on the modified contract.

This may put the city at risk of litigation over contractual enforcement because the supplier was planning on providing 50 cases of Solo hot drink cups, costing nearly $80 each. This means the supplier is left with almost $4,000 worth of unsold paper cups, not to mention the other paper products.

The city didn't appear concerned about its contractual duties, however. The city council voted down the proposal three times since last November, leaving the paper supplier in limbo. The $42,000 contract included not only included toilet paper but also paper towels, toilet seat covers and drink cups.

Although Trenton's city government never approved the deal, it is possible that it might be sued to enforce it anyway. The supplier could argue that it operated on the assumption the contract would be approved by amassing enough paper products to run a city for a year.

Fortunately, the recent crisis was averted when the city agreed to an emergency, short-term contract with the same company that provided the contested contract. Hot drink cups were not in the latest order, though.

The council again rejected the bid on March 14, so the contract could be re-bid. During the crisis, Dyson donated several air hand-dryers so the city may not need as many hand towels in the new contract. As long as the city is going through the trouble, it may also want to reconsider ordering paper coffee cups as well.

Source: The Times of Trenton, " Toilet paper on way to Trenton City Hall," Matt Fair, March 14, 2012

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