SOUTHINGTON - A decision over whether or not to change the townâ€™s preferred bidding ordinance was tabled during Mondayâ€™s meeting following a debate between councilors Tom Lombardi and Dawn Miceli.
The revision, if approved, would award a bid to a local business as long as it matched an out-of-town bidder within 10 percent. Currently, the ordinance states that a bid would be awarded to the local bidder if it were within 5 percent of an out-of-town low bidder.
When the proposal was presented during a November meeting, several members of the Southington Chamber of Commerce spoke in favor of the revision.
To reinforce his opposition, Lombardi cited a presentation that Gregory K. Spearman, purchasing director of the city of Tampa, Florida, gave in 2015. The presentation weighed the pros and cons and concluded that preferences policies may result in local businesses losing business as a result of other communities establishing exclusions.
It also argued that local preferences increase the complexity of bidding and that non-local bidders may be more reluctant to bid. Additionally, less competition would result in higher costs to taxpayers.
Lombardi also presented a 2015 position paper written by NIGP: The Institute for Public Procurement, which includes the following summary:
â€śThe Institute for Public Procurement maintains the position that preference policies, including local preferences, conflict with the fundamental public procurement principles of impartiality and full and open competition. Therefore, NIGP does not support the use of preference policies.â€ť
Lombardi also said that West Hartford, Avon, Plainville, Cheshire, Newington, Rocky Hill, Wallingford, Cromwell, Burlington, Wolcott and Glastonbury had no preferred bidding percentage. Berlin has a 3 percent ordinance. Bristol has a 4 percent ordinance, Farmington has a 5 percent ordinance and Torrington has a 6 percent ordinance. Meriden, New Britain and Wethersfield have a 10 percent preferred bidding ordinance.
â€śI disagree that this revision will discourage bidders,â€ť said Miceli. â€śSo many other communities of our size have a preferred bidding ordinance. I canâ€™t worry about how Florida does things - I donâ€™t know their business climate. I know the business climate in Southington and I have talked to many local business owners.â€ť
Miceli said she is in favor of the revision because she saw â€śso many out-of-town or out-of-state bidders getting our municipal jobs.â€ť
â€śIt seemed odd for me that in a community as large as ours with 48,000 people that more local contractors werenâ€™t getting the jobs,â€ť she said. â€śFive percent just doesnâ€™t cut it. I think we need the 10 percent.â€ť
â€śI have a lot of respect for Dawn and her enthusiasm and passion for the town is to be admired but Iâ€™m taking a step back and saying that this idea is detrimental to the taxpayer,â€ť said Lombardi. â€śIâ€™ve spoken to many people who were initially in favor of this revision because of the chamberâ€™s support but that changed their minds once I explained it. Not only would this revision hurt competition, but the other half of it is that if every other town implemented this policy it would hurt our businesses that are going out of town to bid on projects. There isnâ€™t enough work in one town to sustain them all.
â€śI understand that the government needs to be involved in certain things, but I think that it is for the best that we stay out of this and let the natural economics decide who can provide the best value to the taxpayer.â€ť
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.