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October 26, 1970
Honorable Vaughn Hubbard
State Representative, District 11-A
Waitsburg, Washington 99361
Cite as: AGLO 1970 No. 139
This is written in response to your recent letter requesting our opinion on a question relating to RCW 87.03.435, the statutory "bid law" for irrigation districts. Your specific question reads as follows:
". . . can the Board of Directors, if they are in direct control of the construction of an irrigation district project, avoid putting out bids of any kind if they do not feel it necessary?"
In so far as is material to your question, RCW 87.03.435 read as follows:
". . . Whenever in the construction of the district canal or canals, or other works, or the furnishing of materials therefor, the board of directors shall determine to let a contract or contracts for the doing of said work or the furnishing of said materials, a notice calling for sealed proposals shall be published in a newspaper in the county in which the office of the board is situated, and in any other newspaper which may be designated by the board, and for such length of time, not less than two weeks, as may be fixed by the board. At the time and place appointed in the notice for the opening of bids, the sealed proposals shall be opened in public, and as soon as convenient thereafter, the board shall let said work or the contract for the purchase of materials, either in portions or as a whole, to the lowest responsible bidder, or the board may reject any or all bids and readvertise, or may proceed to construct the work under its own superintendence: . . ." (Emphasis supplied.)
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
In your letter, you have suggested that the portion of this statute which we have underscored might be construed as constituting a basis for an avoidance of putting out bids in the first instance. However, as we read this particular segment of the statute, it simply affords the irrigation district a third alternative following its receipt of sealed bids in response to its earlier call therefor; i.e., upon receiving such bids, the district may either (1) let the contract to the lowest responsible bidder; or (2) reject any or all bids and readvertise; or (3) proceed to construct the work under its own superintendence.
Yet notwithstanding this characterization of the significance of the portion of the statute upon which you have urged reliance, it is our opinion that the question which you have posed may be answered in the affirmative in any event ‑ for a different reason. Unlike the "bid laws" governing certain other types of municipal corporations or political subdivisions, RCW 87.03.435, does not require that any particular public works projects of an irrigation district be let out to contract in the first instance. Instead, as we read it, all that this statute does is establish a procedure to be followed by the board of directors of an irrigation district where the board has determined, in a particular case, to let a contract for the project in question rather than doing the work by utilizing the services of the district's own employees. Thus, if in the first instance the board of directors of a particular irrigation district believes that a certain project can be better accomplished through use of its own labor force, the board is entirely free to do the job in this manner without calling for bids at all.
It is hoped that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Philip H. Austin
Assistant Attorney General