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Council discusses local bid policy

City of Bainbridge leaders seem to be more aware of the need to support local business as much as possible, though they aren’t quite ready to back the idea of a local preference related to bidding on needed goods and services.

Bainbridge City Council members discussed the idea of a local bid preference at their annual planning retreat last week. Although it was just an informal discussion held near the end of the meeting, council members discussed the reasons both for and against an attempt to have more of the money the city spends on purchases and consulting services stay in the local economy.

For the past few years, Councilwoman Roslyn Palmer has been a lone supporter on the council advocating for a local bid preference. In the absence of a formal local bid preference policy, state law requires local governments to award the bid with the lowest dollar amount, as long as there is no defensible reason to reject it—such as a longer wait on delivery of goods or a reputation for inferior quality products, according to City Manager Chris Hobby.

There’s multiple ways of implementing a local bid preference, but the idea Palmer supports would award a bid submitted by a local business so long as its cost is no more than 2 percent greater than the low bid.

Councilman Phil Long, who began serving on the council in January, said he had researched and found many other Georgia cities have local bid preference policies.

“The money that is spent [on purchases] rotates seven times in our community,” Long said. “I haven’t talked to a businessman that hasn’t been affected by the economy.”

Hobby pointed out that bids the council votes on are only those estimated to cost $3,000 or more, per its purchasing policy. The city’s Purchasing Department handles purchases of less than $3,000 and only gets quotes from local businesses on those, Hobby said. Therefore, he said he believed most of the city’s purchasing is already done locally.

Mayor Edward Reynolds, who joined the council in 2006, questioned whether even a 2.5 percent margin favoring local bids would have changed any of the council’s business during the last four years.

“You would automatically give up 2.5 percent on other items you bid out because people would know it’s available,” Reynolds said.

Councilwoman Glennie Bench agreed.

“The local guy ends up charging more because he knows no one from out of town is going to be able to compete; over time, there are fewer people bidding,” Bench said.

Councilwoman Palmer cited cases in which the city awarded out-of-town bids over local bids that were within $100 or less of the low bid. Palmer said that if the council wasn’t ready to adopt a local bid preference, the least it could do would be to ask out-of-town businesses to support the city’s programs and special events just as local businesses do. That was an idea that the rest of the council seem