WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Putnam County commissioners on Tuesday raised its bid cap to $15,000 -- a $10,000 increase from the county's previous $5,000 minimum.According to Commissioner Steve Andes, the change brings Putnam County in line with neighboring counties, including Kanawha, Cabell and Mason. County employees will now be allowed to contract projects estimated to cost less than $15,000 without advertising them through the normal bid process. "Smaller projects, we have to get bids on them, and it takes that much longer. If we're dealing with a reputable company, we can go right to them and take care of it," Andes said. "The $5,000 cap has been there for a long time, and the prices for work have gone up. The price for parts has increased."County Manager Brian Donat said the new bid cap applies to the county commission or any county office, and could include anything from computer systems to small-scale equipment purchases."You don't have to bid out items that are on the state contract, so that has helped us a lot," he said. "Cruisers and those sorts of things we don't bid out separately because we buy them on state contract."County officials have spent time and effort on bidding out smaller projects, and Donat hopes the increased bid cap will eliminate unnecessary processes and help departments."I think it brings us in line with what other entities have already done, and I think the bid limit of $5,000 had been that way for many years," Donat said. "If you have it too low, you end up spending a lot of time and effort and money bidding things out that don't necessitate that formal a process."Even if we don't do a formal advertisement for a bid, we still want to do the best we can -- we will want to get multiple prices. This saves us from doing so many advertisements in the newspaper and those other bid processes for something in that middle range, when a department head can get quotes from people verbally."Donat said getting rid of the bid process for projects less than $15,000 might involve looking more actively for vendors and contractors, but he believes it is still a better option for Putnam County."You might have a few more where you're calling people to get estimates or quotes, but we do that a lot as it is for under $5,000, and this will just expand that a little bit more," he said.The commission also discussed the new increase in county fire fees this year. According to Andes, a member of the county's fire board, the county has only received one appeal of the increased fee so far.The fee, which went into effect in January, raised the rate by 50 percent. The rate for residential households is based on the size of the home -- a household that previously paid a $20 fee now pays $30. Commercial properties are also charged on the square-footage of the properties, which can greatly increase the rate for larger buildings."We've had people calling to express their opinions one way or the other," Andes said. "The majority of the opinions are for it."The first test of the disaster sirens installed across Putnam County is scheduled for noon today. The five towers, located in Poca, Winfield, Eleanor, Teays Valley and Hurricane, will be tested the fourth Wednesday of every month.Reach Lydia Nuzum at email@example.com or 304-348-5100.