Sebastian council approves new local vendor preference rules

SEBASTIAN — The Sebastian City Council approved changes to local vendor preference policies by a vote of four to one at the Sept. 9 regular council meeting. A public hearing and final vote on the issue has been set for Oct. 14.

The changes are part of overall efforts to promote the Sebastian economy in the present economically challenging times.

Simchick expressed disappointed with the proposed changes and voted against the measure.

“Awarding local preference is a fine thing,” Simchick said. However, “I was prepared to move forward as in my packet.”

Mayor Richard Gillmor discussed his recommended amendments to the proposal with City Attorney Robert Ginsburg three hours prior to the council meeting. His amendments were not included in the council’s packet.

“The city has been viewed by some to be not too business friendly,” Mayor Richard Gillmor stated in his background remarks about the reason the ordinance changes were being proposed.

The mayor noted that a lot of local traffic flows out of the city and many people in Sebastian work somewhere else.

“We really need to think regionally,” he said, and suggested the proposal wording should be changed wherever it referred to “local city” to “local city and local region.” He indicated that the local region would encompass vendors from Indian River, Brevard, Osceola, Saint Lucie and Martin counties, in addition to the City of Sebastian.

Sebastian policy adopted in 2006 enables the city to give preference to local vendors and purchase at bid price from locals who are within 3 percent of the lowest bid. The proposal prepared by attorney Ginsburg changed this to within 2 percent of the lowest bid by a non-local bidder.

Mayor Gillmor suggested that bringing this up to within 5 percent of the lowest bid would be closer to the ordinance adopted by the County.

His third amendment to the proposal called for amending the proposal to state that any dispute rising from the result of decisions pertaining to the ordinance would be subject to the final decision of the city manager. Vendors opting to participate in bidding would go into the process with the understanding that the city manager’s ruling was binding.

“I think it’s the right thing to do,” Mayor Gillmor said, stressing that the changes would preserve the lowest cost for jobs in the city and support local businesses by spending dollars locally.

Simchick voiced her objections to the mayor’s amendments to the proposal not being in writing and included in her prepared meeting packet. She expressed that it was disrespectful and unfair to her constituents to vote on something she had not read or evaluated.

“I will not pass it this evening because I have not read it,” she said.

Donald Wright, broker/owner of Don Wright Real Estate, LLC, and a candidate for a Sebastian City Council seat, addressed the Council with two concerns.

First, Wright informed the Council that “retaliatory wording” exists in the ordinances of other local regions if Sebastian does not expand to include other nearby counties in vendor preference.

He also questioned how the city would determine the “local” company were actually local.

“What establishes a company as doing business?” Wright explained that a big company could set up a phone number and answering machine in the local region and qualify for vendor preference.

“The resolution does not adequately address this,” he warned.

Indicating that he had been unaware of the retaliatory positions of counties, Councilmember Eugene Wolff stated that Brevard is important.

“Brevard is part of our community,” he said. Wolff agreed that Osceola, and Saint Lucie were also local regions, but he viewed Martin as out of the area. Wolff also remarked that 5 percent mirrored the Indian River County ordinance.

“Five percent is not a substantial number to chase away outside bidders,” he said.

Councilmember Andrea Coy also supported the mayor’s amendments.

“I want to be able to give our people jobs here,” she said.

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