Garfield County still working on local preference regulation |

Garfield County still working on local preference regulation

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Four months ago the Garfield County commissioners voted to consider a “local vendor preference” regulation that would “encourage creation of jobs in Garfield County.”

Ever since, county staff members have been working on a draft ordinance that would enable the Board of County Commissioners to give greater weight to bids on county projects that are submitted by local contractors, rather than those from out of the area.

At the Sept. 13 regular commissioners meeting, Jim Hackett and Gene Duran of the purchasing department presented a summary of what they have come up with.

The 11-page report included a proposed resolution outlining changes in the county’s procurement code, as well as a detailed revision of the “bid preference” section of the codes.

For example, as outlined in a memo to the commissioners, the regulation would permit awarding of a contract to a local company if that company’s bid were not more than 5 percent higher than that from an outside competitor.

It would define a local business as one that “maintains its headquarters in Garfield County”; where “at least 75 percent of its workforce resides within” the county boundaries; and in which at least three-quarters of the company’s business vehicles are registered within the county; among other provisions.

But after talking it over with the commissioners, the two were sent “back to the drawing board,” in Hackett’s words. They will try to bring an updated revision of the codes to the commissioners’ Sept. 21 meeting.

Among the difficulties was a level of confusion over the definition of a “local” company.

The commissioners had questions about, say, a firm that, while headquartered elsewhere, maintains a strong corporate presence in the county and does a lot of work here and employs a lot of local workers.

“Let’s get back to basics here,” remarked Commissioner John Martin, explaining that “if it’s local folks who have a local presence here” it should be considered a local business.

And, he said, the county should be able to come up with a “weighting system” with differing degrees of preference for different aspects of being a “local.”

“Sounds good,” intoned Commissioner Mike Samson.

“We want to make sure that the public knows that this will be a fair process,” responded Duran. “This is just the first step.”

The commissioners noted that there are some companies, such as Gould Construction, which were founded by locals and have remained so.

But others, such as LaFarge and Waste Management, which obviously have their headquarters in distant locales – as far away as France, in LaFarge’s case – still employ a lot of locals.

Another point of discussion was how federal involvement might work with a “local preference” regulation, since federal laws prohibit discrimination and have a wide array of restrictions that apply to local projects built with federal money.

For example, said county attorney Don DeFord, the South Canyon trail is being paid for partly with federal funds, which might get in the way of awarding the contract to a local construction company over an out-of-county competitor.

But, asked Commissioner Tresi Houpt, is it written anywhere in the federal codes that local governments cannot adopt their own local preference guidelines?

Duran and Hackett were unsure, although Duran noted, “My purpose and goal was to keep it simple,” and to avoid having to deal with federal funding issues.

Houpt noted that the county is working on a variety of energy-efficiency programs and projects, which may involve federal funds, and that there are other such possibilities in the county’s future.

Hackett said he will look into the effect of federal funding on the idea of hiring locals wherever possible, and a number of other questions, before bringing a second draft back to the commissioners.

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