SOUTHINGTON — The Town Council voted along party lines this week to increase bidding advantages for local companies.
Supporters, including Town Council vice chairwoman and Democrat Dawn Miceli, say it’s a show of support for local businesses. Republicans, who opposed the measure, say it will have no effect or decrease the number of bidders on town jobs. The measure passed in a 5 to 4 vote at Monday’s council meeting.
The town's previous preferred bidding ordinance allowed local companies to match the lowest bid received if a Southington company's offer is within 5 percent. With the change passed on Monday, the threshold increased to 10 percent, giving local companies a greater chance of matching the lowest bid on contracts between $10,000 and $500,000.
In the case of identical bids, the local company gets the job, according to the ordinance.
Miceli said during her decade on the council she’s seen road jobs, in particular, go to out of town companies.
“Don’t we have Southington paving companies who could handle this?” she said.
The new measure acknowledges the important role local businesses play, Miceli said.
“I’m OK with throwing a bone to our Southington business clientele,” she said. “We support you, we want to work with you any way we can.”
At a public hearing late last year, some small business owners and the Greater Southington Chamber of Commerce supported the change.
Brian Goralski, chairman of the Board of Education and a Republican, said he's already concerned about the lack of bidders for snow plowing and asked that the service be exempt from the proposed ordinance.
No such carve-out was approved this week. Miceli said there have always been fewer bidders on school plowing jobs and that the problem was unrelated to the preferred bidding ordinance.
Councilor Michael Riccio, a Republican, said the new ordinance will likely have no effect, but, if anything, could hurt the town’s ability to attract bidders. Knowing that a local company can match the lowest bid and win the job would make trying for Southington work less attractive.
“As a bidder, you spend a lot of time and money bidding. Just the bidding portion alone costs a lot of money,” Riccio said. “You’re going to stop bidding in that community.”
A better way to help local businesses would be to restore lunch seminars for the business community, which were suspended recently, according to Riccio.
The town would monitor bids on local work to ensure that the number of bidders didn’t drop, Miceli said, although she didn’t expect that to be the case.