Contracts FAQ 3

Are any activities exempt from state bid law requirements?

The requirement to competitively bid public construction contracts does not apply to public construction if the materials for the project are donated or if the labor for the project is provided by volunteers. Wis. Stat. secs. 61.54 and 62.15(1).
Bid law statutes also provide an exemption for public emergencies. Public construction contracts for the “repair and reconstruction of public facilities” may be done without bidding when damage or threatened damage creates a public emergency as determined by the appropriate body. Wis. Stat. secs. 61.54 and 62.15(1b).
State bid law allows cities and villages, by a three-fourths vote of all the members-elect of the council/board, to provide by ordinance that any class of work may be done directly by the city/village without bidding. Wis. Stat. secs. 61.54 and 62.15(1). But, this exemption only applies where city/village employees do the actual work. Contracts 307. Mere supervision of the construction project by the city /village as a general contractor is insufficient to claim this exemption. See Contracts 323. In addition, a city/village may not use its employees on a project for which a private person is financially responsible. Wis. Stat sec. 66.0901(11)(b).
Highways, streets and bridges constructed or improved with federal or state funds and local matching funds are specifically exempt from the competitive bid requirements. Wis. Stat. sec. 86.25(4).

Lastly, small cities and villages (population of 5000 or less) are probably authorized to contract with a county for highway improvement projects without competitive bidding. Wis. Stat. secs. 61.54, 62.15(1d), 66.0131, 66.0301 and 83.035. However, since no law specifically exempts such projects from competitive bidding, it is advisable that the city/village, before authorizing the county to do the work, first adopt, by three-fourths vote, an ordinance allowing the city/village, or at its option, the county, to do the work itself. Contracts 364; Contracts 321; 38 Op. Atty. Gen. 175 (1949).