Garfield County considers expanding its local-preference purchasing rule
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Contractors in neighboring counties are not happy that their counterparts in Garfield County are getting work under a “local vendor preference” regulation for county government contracts, according to Jim Hackett, senior contract administrator for Garfield County.
As a result of that unhappiness, Hackett has been approached by Mesa County to create a more regional local vendor preference framework that will cover contractors in Garfield, Mesa and Rio Blanco counties.
The ultimate goal is to redefine “local” to include contractors in all three counties.
“It would put everybody on an equal footing,” he said, in terms of bidding on county government projects.
Hackett, who has been deeply involved in creating Garfield County’s local vendor preference rules, said the impetus to take the concept to a regional level came from the Western Colorado Contractors Association.
Garfield County’s rules, among other provisions, restrict “local” designation to those firms whose headquarters are in the county, and which can show that 75 percent of their work vehicles and employees are from this county.
For contractors with the “local” designation, he said, bids on county contracts get a 5 percent credit when the bids are opened, meaning their bids are automatically treated as though they were 5 percent lower than those of nonlocal contractors.
Local contractors, Hackett said, must deal with the Western Slope’s higher cost of living, in terms of wages and other costs, than the costs that face contractors on the Front Range and in other areas.
Local vendor preference thus allows the county to keep locals employed, which boosts the area’s economy, he continued.
If a local contractor wins a contract, Hackett explained, it is awarded at the actual amount included in the bid.
Hackett said he is not entirely familiar with the regulations in Mesa and Rio Blanco, the two counties he expects to be negotiating with.
But, he said, “The idea is to see how we can play better together in this sandbox of the Western Slope.”
Hackett said the local-preference framework, which went into effect this year, has affected only one contract so far. It has been used to evaluate bids submitted for several projects.
He noted that the preference system cannot be used on contracts involving state or federal funds, such as the recent expansion of the Garfield County Regional Airport runway or other improvements at that site, because of rules that forbid such preferential treatment.
Hackett said he plans to open a dialogue with Mesa County officials within a couple of weeks, and expects he will be talking with Rio Blanco county officials after that.
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