Contractors in Brevard, Okeechobee won’t get benefit in Vero Beach bids

VERO BEACH – Contractors from Brevard and Okeechobee counties won’t get the same benefit as other nearby counties when bidding on projects for the City of Vero Beach, city leaders decided.

In a 4-1 vote, the Vero Beach City Council approved adopting a local vendor preference that gives local vendors an edge over those from outside the region. Neither Okeechobee nor Brevard reciprocate with similar rules including Indian Rive County. “I think it’s only in our interest to share where people are ready to share alike,” Vero Beach Purchasing Manager John O’Brien told the Vero Beach City Council at a recent meeting.

Councilman Brian Heady was the lone dissenter on adopting the new ordinance, saying the city already has rules on the books that give city staff the option of hiring locally.

“We should give our work locally,” he said, “no question about that.”

However, Heady took issue with the 5-page ordinance filled with “legalese” and adds more work for staff and the would-be contractors wanting to do business with the city.

“We should be finding ways to reduce laws, not to enlarge them,” Heady said.

Councilman Ken Daige had brought the issue before the council earlier in the month and asked staff to review the county’s current local vendor preference ordinance.

As a local, small business owner himself, Daige said the impetus for him was to encourage local businesses in need of work and revenue to submit bids with the city, with the expectation that they would have a better chance of getting the job under a more business-friendly ordinance.

The county’s ordinance lists Indian River, St. Lucie, Okeechobee and Brevard counties as “local.” The designation allows those bidders who are within 5 percent of the lowest bid an opportunity to match the non-local bid.

The county’s ordinance has been on the books since July and has done little to stimulate new contracts between the county and local firms.

In March, county commissioners received an update from Purchasing Manager Jerry Davis, who told them that since July, the county has hired 17 businesses to perform specific work. Of those, nine were local and would have been hired regardless of the ordinance due to being the lowest bidders.

Of the non-local hires, six projects did not have local bidders – and the ones that did have local bids came in well over the out-of-area bidders’ proposal.

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