Sarsota Commissioners: Why are more local contracts leaving town?

03/17/09 Mitch E. Perry
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As Sarasota County Commissioners approved local projects they call part of the their local stimulus plan, they also debated their policy regarding local vendors, and how much they are being underbid by out-of-town companies.

The county’s current ordinance gives local vendors preference on contracts if they are within 10 percent of the lowest bid by a contractor.

However, Jennifer Slusarz, procurement manager for the county, said that preference policy just went into effect last month after the bids for the projects approved today were considered. And she mentioned the CCNA, or Consultants Competitve Negotiating Act.

But Commissioner Jon Thaxton said if that meant that local contractors would have an inherent advantage in bidding for construction project, he wasn’t seeing it.

Shannon Staub says that being fiscal stewards of the community, it’s important that the county hire the lowest bidders.

Commissioner Nora Patterson also chimed in on the vast discrepancy of bids between Sarasota County companies and those from other parts of Florida. And Patterson took exception to the fact that a company needs only to have an occupational license to work in the county to qualify to bid for local projects.

Commissioner Jon Thaxton voiced his concerns about how outside companies get a local imprimatur, but County Attorney Stephen DeMarch told him he should worry about how they wanted to tailor such a policy.

County staff said they would research the prospect of changing the rule on a business having an occupational license to two years and not one, in order to bid for local contracts.

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