Council to review liaison and bidding preferences at next meeting

Mayor Siegel
Mayor Siegel

A second reading of an amendment to an ordinance to create a city council liaison and a discussion about giving preference to local bidders is on Tuesday night’s city council agenda.

At their last meeting council members, on a 3-2 vote (members Lois Wynne and Willard Rodarmel dissented), approved the first reading of an ordinance establishing a council liaison.

The liaison plan is the brainchild of Mayor Billy Siegel and Council Member John Gordon to keep council members and the public better informed of important daily business proceedings.

Under Siegel’s plan the council liaison could be any council member or a member of the public who resides within the city limits. The liaison would be informed of any important meetings related to city business and could attend and participate in the meetings with the city manager.

It appears as though Siegel may be the appointee, though that decision wasn’t made at their last meeting. Gordon suggested that Siegel take on the position, and that may be decided at Tuesday’s meeting.

The liaison would not speak for the council as a whole, bind the council to any decisions, give direction to staff or to the city manager. It is proposed the liaison may be reimbursed for out of pocket expenses in connection with his or her duties.

At issue is some council members’ belief that city managers don’t always give them the information they need, and a liaison would hold managers and council members more accountable to the citizens of Lemoore.

“It will allow council to get another perspective and another opinion as to how a meeting went, what was said during the meeting, and then you will know the information you’re getting is 100 percent accurate,” said Gordon who supports the liaison position.

Gordon illustrated his belief in the liaison by citing hypothetical situations in which a developer may have an idea for a project, but the city manager may discourage that project or refuse to present it to the council. “This thought process means a lot to me,” he said. “I’ve been frustrated in the past … when you learn things second hand and when opportunities for the city come and go and you can’t do anything about it.”

Gordon also cited an example of a developer or developers who told him that the former city manager failed to inform councilmembers about particular projects.

Council members will hear a report from administrative analyst Laura Apone spelling out options for giving preferences to local bidders. Siegel recently asked that the staff investigate such options so that local contractors may have a better opportunity to bid on and win bids.

After receiving a number of responses from cities throughout California that have similar ordinances awarding preferences to local bidders, Apone compiled the responses to help facilitate discussion. For example who will be considered local: Kings County, the Lemoore city limits, the local zip code and the San Joaquin Valley?

She also asked council members to keep in mind that a sales tax advantage only occurs within city limits.

Also, it is important that we limit whatever area Council chooses to a physical business address, not a post office box. In addition, the city may want to set a minimum time the business has been in the area, to make sure the business isn’t locating here temporarily just to gain this preference.

And what kind of preference?

For example if a local bidder is within a percentage, say one percent, three percent, or five percent, they could get the bid.

Another possibility is a matching preference (If they are within a percentage, they get the chance to match the non-local low bid.) A flat preference will mean that the City will pay more for the project than if they went with the non-local low bidder. A matching preference is a creative approach that allows for the local bidder to provide the goods or service without costing the tax payers additional money. Of all the cities surveyed, five percent was the highest preference given, and was also the most common.

Additional Items to be considered:

  • • Is the preference applied to Public Works contracts, goods, and professional services?
  • • Is there a maximum dollar amount of preference that can be given? (For example, $5,000, $20,000, etc.)
  • • Do we want to require additional items such as membership in the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce or possession of a City of Lemoore Business License?
  • • Do we want to require that a certain number/percentage of the employees or owners of the company live in the defined area?

Furthermore, Apone stated that is important to note that this local preference may only be given on locally funded projects. State and Federal grant projects must be awarded to the lowest responsive bidder, with no exceptions. Also, she said it is important to keep this ordinance simple, clear, and easy to understand. The more dimensions added, the more opportunity for confusion on both the part of the bidders and staff implementing the preferences many years down the road.

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