County Commission votes to end preferred vendor ordinance

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The Board of Commissioners voted 3-1 Tuesday to remove its requirement that the county give preference to local businesses when putting projects out for public bid.

Commissioners passed the preferred vendor ordinance last year with the requirement that County Budget Director Jason Brown report back every six months on the effectiveness of the rule. Brown told Commissioners in the last six months there had been 15 bids that fell under the local preference rule, three went to county business, eight were granted to other local area vendors in St. Lucie County and four went to out-of-area vendors.

Under questioning by Commissioner Wesley Davis, Brown said he it was difficult to determine if the ordinance cost the county any more money to use local vendors, noting that if a local vendor’s bid came within 5 percent of a bid by someone from out of area, the local business had the opportunity to match the low bid.

Jerry Davis, the county’s purchasing manager, said that some out of area bidders chose not to buy a bid packet once they found out that the county was giving preference to local businesses.

Commissioners Bob Solari and Gary Wheeler voted against the instituting the local vendor rule last year and spoke out against it again on Tuesday.

Solari said he thought it only achieved in adding another layer of bureaucracy by requiring Brown’s office to track the local vendor requirement.

“I don’t think this has offered any demonstrable benefit to the citizens of Indian River County,” he said.

Wheeler reiterated his objection that the rule was anti-competitive.

“I voted against it the first time and I am going to vote against it again,” he said. “I am against protectionism. I think the local bidder ought to beat out-of-area bidders without an additional benefit. It is our job to get the best quality and the best price regardless of where it comes from.”

Commissioner O’Bryan said he was voting against continuing the practice of using local vendors since other than St. Lucie County, nearby counties were not affording Indian River County businesses the same consideration.

Commissioner Wesley Davis offered the lone vote to continue giving consideration to local businesses. Commissioner Joe Flescher was not in attendance at the meeting.

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