The Groton Town Council is considering a revision to the town’s bidding rules that would give a preference to local companies.
The council discussed the possibility Tuesday night but did not make a decision. Councilors said they want more time to review the issue and will take it up at a later date.
Groton’s Economic Development Commission earlier voted to support a policy that would give preference to local businesses. The proposed revision to the town’s purchasing manual would apply to companies that come within 5 percent of the lowest price offered. Companies that qualify would then be notified within 5 business days, giving them a chance to meet the price and win the contract.
Councilor Bill Johnson said he supports the idea.
“I think (the) quality of work would be better if you have local people doing it, because you have to look them in the face,” he said. For example, he said he believes the town would not have had problems with leaks at the high school if a local company had done the job, because problems would have tarnished that company’s reputation.
John Piacenza, purchasing agent for Groton, said he canvassed other municipalities and found 10 to 15 that have a preference for local vendors. New London offers a preference to companies that come within 15 percent of the lowest bid, he said.
But Piacenza said the issue is seldom raised as a practical matter.
Town Manager Mark Oefinger said he’d be concerned about giving a company a “second bite at the apple” when a bidder has presumably offered its lowest price already.
“We have a very clean procurement process in the town of Groton. Very clean,” he said.
Gary Schneider, director of public works, wrote a memo July 11 expressing concern over the change. The memo was distributed to councilors Tuesday.
Schneider questioned whether local vendors would be able to absorb a profit loss that comes with reducing a price, or would make changes like scaling back work crews.
Councilor Frank O’Beirne, Jr. said he’s concerned that a drop in price would mean a drop in quality.
“In that situation, I think the town’s going to lose,” he said.