Two members of the Kenai business community are hoping to see the city choose to use local professionals more often.
Thomas Daly and Fred Braun on Wednesday encouraged the Kenai City Council to review its purchasing policy, a topic that was on its agenda, in the hopes that the city would find more ways to buy local.
Braun, a realtor and Kenai Chamber of Commerce board member, said it is important for the perception of the public that the city should look at local purchase over anyone else.
“All we have ever preached is buy local,” Braun said referring to his 50 years working in Kenai. “I hope you strongly consider a through review of the policy and look beyond price.”
Last month, Braun addressed the council and said he was disappointed that city own vehicles had been purchased in Anchorage when, in his view, the money could have been reinvested at the local Kenai Stanley Ford dealership.
Daly, owner of HiSpeed Gear, a technology supply company, said the city could become a more sustainable if it worked to keep money within the community.
“The more dollars you can keep in the local economy and the longer you can keep them there, the more things the community has the ability to do,” he said. “It’s a win-win situation. You don’t have to raise taxes and there is more money to do things and improve infrastructure.
Council member Bob Molloy initiated the discussion Wednesday and recommended the city reassess how the local preference ordinance is written and measure how often local businesses are awarded professional contracts.
Kenai City Manager Rick Koch said the city sometimes uses a joint procurement policy, or one that awards contracts to non-local companies, for government contracts because, when to entities combine to purchase items — the larger volume of the purchase can create lower prices. City administration also follows recommendations from the state for specifications for a specific purchase, he said.
“We look at it by a case-by-case basis,” he said. “We still get local participation as part of the process.”
Koch said he is not a fan of bidding processes which automatically award professional service contracts to the lowest bidder.
The state has rules about awarding engineering projects to the lowest bidder in certain circumstances, he said.
“For larger procurements we ask for a competitive proposal,” he said. “There are times firms locally are well qualified and we will negotiate contracts without competitive bidding.”
For larger projects that require payment with a federal or state grant, Koch said the policy doesn’t allow a choice for where the money could be spent.
“If it’s our own money we can utilize local hiring and generally for smaller projects local folks (are awarded contracts) anyway,” he said.
Daly said there are of good people working in government with good intentions, but sometimes a legislative body should take a step back and evaluate is what they are trying to accomplish provides the maximum benefit for the community.
Daly said he contacted several business owners to attend the meeting and share their thoughts on the policy. He said some business owners have negative experiences with local procurement.
“Someone been in business locally for years and maybe 10 years ago had a negative experience with government procurement,” he said. “The public perception can be negative and damaging to the credibility of the city going forward.”
The council came to a consensus to continue the discussion with a work session in the spring prior to budget time to review changes that can be made to the purchasing policy.
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