When it comes to setting municipal policy, rarely do we come across a case in which the merits of a policy are so overwhelmingly positive that the question is not whether said policy should be implemented, but rather how quickly can it be put into practice.
For Naugatuck, that rare occasion is here, in the form of a local bidder preference policy.
Currently, Naugatuck awards contracts based on the lowest, qualified bid regardless of whether the company is based in Naugatuck—a common practice within the public sector.
With a local bidder preference policy Naugatuck contractors would be given an advantage over out-of-town contractors when it comes to securing borough projects-even if it wasn’t the lowest bidder.
The role of any municipality, first and foremost, is to provide and care for its own. A local bidder preference policy is an extension of that role that would pay countless dividends for Naugatuck.
Think of it as an investment.
Granting a Naugatuck company a bid over an out-of-town company, although the local contractor didn’t offer the lowest bid, keeps the money in the borough. A local company pays taxes. The more local contractors win more bids the better chance these companies have to thrive and grow. In the end the borough gets a return on its investment in tax revenue.
A local contractor is also more likely to have local people on the payroll. Prosperous companies lead to job security and more money in the pockets of its workers. If more of the workers are Naugatuck residents than not, it only adds to the return the borough will see on its investment.
An out-of-town contractor, even one that came in at a little lower bid, takes the money and runs once the job is finished. The borough receives a job, hopefully, well done. But, that’s the only return it’ll see on that venture.
In the spectrum of investments a local bidder policy is about as safe as it gets. It’s all reward and little to no risk.
Any contractor that wins a bid, local or not, will still have to meet the qualifications for the job. Plus, ultimately, the borough will craft the shape such a policy would take.
Officials will be in complete control of setting the parameters for a local bidder policy, and can do so as to remove all risk.
Preliminary discussions have tossed around the idea that if a local contractor comes within a certain percentage-say 5 percent-of the lowest qualified bidder the Naugatuck contractor would be awarded the bid at the price they submitted.
The extra money, we believe, would be money well spent.
However, there’s nothing written in blood here. The details must still be ironed out, and the borough can look to other municipalities to help get out the wrinkles.
Other municipalities, like Wethersfield, have policies that give local bidders preference only if they agree to match the lowest bid. Say the lowest bid for a job comes in at $50,000 and a local guy comes within 5 percent at $52,000. The local contractor would be offered the job, only if the contractor agrees to do it at $50,000.
This makes sense and is an idea worth exploring. If the borough gives a Naugatuck company a job and pays the lowest bid, it’s the best of both worlds. However, we would urge officials to look carefully at this so as not to actually alienate local companies when we’re trying to help.
Other municipalities, like Bristol, have policies that set a cap on the size of the job that would qualify for such a policy. This must be taken into consideration as the borough moves forward. There comes a point when awarding jobs based on local preference goes from being an investment to charity—coming within 5 percent of a $5 million job is a $250,000 difference.
Nonetheless, there’s no reason why a local bidder preference policy shouldn’t be implemented in Naugatuck. We urge borough officials to move swiftly to enact such a policy. The quicker such a policy is in the place, the sooner Naugatuck will see a return on its investment.