Vendor ordinance tabled
For the second time, Sarasota County commissioners voted to continue their discussion of a revised local-vendor preference section for the updated county Procurement Code, saying they would like more input from local vendors.“We made some tentative decisions today on local preference, which will go back to some of the industry representatives for more input,” Commission Chair Christine Robinson
said Tuesday. “As far as Procurement Code exemptions, the commission needed additional information as to each exemption on why it’s being included, and why those being eliminated are being eliminated.”
The local-preference ordinance was the only proposed change to the county’s Procurement Code that was not adopted by the commission in September. The code governs how vendors bid on projects and services for the county.
As they did in September, commissioners took issue with definitions of residency and the ability of companies from outside the area to use local subcontractors to qualify for a project bid.
Commissioner Joe Barbetta said he has received phone calls from local subcontractors who were listed on a job that was awarded to a bidder from outside the area, but said they were removed from the project when work began. Commissioners wanted to see language that would prevent that, and possibly to explore the enforcement of using the local contractors that were part of the bid.
County Procurement Director Ted Coyman said that in addition to a vendor workshop held last month that drew more than 50 vendors, 1,200 surveys were mailed out to vendors licensed to do business with the county. Only 110 of those were returned, drawing the ire of commissioners looking for more vendor input on subcontractor work.
Some aspects of the revised local-preference ordinance were approved tentatively. After lengthy discussions, the commission settled on residency requirements for vendors and employees. Under the revised ordinance, vendors will qualify for the local preference based on physical addresses within Sarasota, Charlotte and Manatee counties. DeSoto County was eliminated Tuesday because it does not include Sarasota County in its own local-vendor preference ordinance.
Vendors also must have at least an office in one of those counties for at least a year — something commissioners say can be very difficult to prove.
“The real puzzle of what we discussed today was how to define a local business,” Commissioner Nora Patterson said. “It’s very difficult because it changes. You don’t want to discourage new companies from moving here — you want them to. On the other hand, when you have a large corporation buy a local company, it does put some money into the hands of local people, and you don’t want to disqualify those who are here representing the larger company.”
Officials could not estimate Tuesday when the local-vendor preference ordinance would reappear before the commission.