From what I have seen, by-and-large, the process is set up to ensure that local governments make the best choices to fulfill the needs of their constituents.
As a professional engineer, I have spent my career focused on infrastructure projects. While this has given me a unique perspective on the importance of these efforts, over the years I have also worked very closely with community leaders and elected officials on their major infrastructure upgrades, such as in our local water systems, that has given me some insight into the pressures on governments that are trying to repair and replace critical projects on sometimes shoe-string budgets.
We must think creatively to find the right solutions, but being creative doesn’t mean being cheap or cutting corners.
Every state, city, county, town and village has a process for developing specifications for everything from the engineers to the kinds of materials that could be used. Based on those specifications, the local government then solicits and accepts bids. While there are a variety of ways that bids can be handled – sealed versus unsealed is one example – the common denominator is that the processes are competitive so long as submission criteria that meet the water system’s specifications are met.