Whether local businesses should continue receiving preferential treatment in the bidding process for goods and services purchased by Oxford Village generated some debate at the Nov. 27 council meeting.
“Ultimately, I am not in favor of benefiting an individual contractor who’s . . . within the village boundaries if it is to the detriment of . . . taxpaying residents,” said Councilman Erik Dolan.
“I think we should give a preference to local-owned businesses,” said Councilwoman Kate Logan.
Village officials are working on revising the municipality’s purchasing policy. As part of that process, village attorney Bob Davis asked council for direction with regard to ordinance language that gives preference to bidders based on where they are located.
Under an ordinance amendment adopted in January 2013, bids for supplies, materials, equipment and services “produced in” or “provided by an entity doing business in” the village, Oxford Township, Michigan or the United States “shall be treated as the lowest” if their price is within a certain percentage of the actual lowest bid.
Those percentages are spelled out in the ordinance. For example, if a bid submitted by a company based in the village is within 10 percent of the actual lowest bid, it would be deemed the lowest bid for decision-making purposes.
“They wouldn’t necessarily get the (contract), but they would get the status of being considered the lowest bid,” Davis said.
The percentages decrease based on geography. If a business is based in Oxford Township, it’s 7 percent. If it’s located in Michigan, it’s 5 percent. If it’s a company based in or product made in the United States, it’s 3 percent.
Dolan made a motion to eliminate these percentages.
“I’m not in favor of any local preference,” he said.
Dolan explained his personal philosophy of providing “high-quality services to the greatest number of people” for “the lowest cost” does not permit “any kind of favoritism.”
“I believe that our responsibility is to the community – the community being the taxpayers,” he said.
To Dolan, any potential savings that can be gleaned from selecting the actual lowest bid is money that could be used to provide additional funding for municipal services.
“I believe in the (philosophy of) take care of your own first,” he said. “We need to be tight with these dollars.”
Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth pointed out that just because a business or contractor gets treated as the lowest bidder doesn’t automatically mean they will get the nod.
“We obviously don’t always go with the lowest bidder,” she said.
To be accepted by the village, a bid must be “responsible,” meaning it must meet the municipality’s specifications and be made by an individual or entity that’s considered qualified, trustworthy and able to provide the product or service.
Councilwoman Kate Logan disagreed with the idea of “striking” the local preference language.
“I think we should invest in our own,” she said.
Ultimately, Dolan’s motion failed in a 4-1 vote. Council then voted 5-0 to set the matter aside until the next meeting.
“I don’t think we’re done with this issue,” said Councilman Dave Bailey. “I think the council members need to think about it some more. At least I feel like I need to think about it some more.”