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Monday, January 28, 2013

Wallingford Local preference proposal fails

As published in the Record Journal, Thursday January 24, 2013

By Russell Blair
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2225

WALLINGFORD - A proposal to give local companies preference on municipal contracts died recently when the Town Council’s Ordinance Committee declined to pursue the issue further.

Under the proposal, bids on contracts would be invited as usual. If a local company was not the low bidder, but within a certain percentage of the lowest bid, the firm would be awarded the contract at the lowest bid price.

Bill Abildgaard, a town resident and owner of Leed Construction, asked councilors last month for the ordinance change, reviving a discussion that began in February 2012.

“When you award to a local contractor or a local business, that money stays in town,” he said. “We buy our trucks from Valenti. We buy our insurance from a local insurance company. Most of our supplies are from Wallingford, our employees are from Wallingford.”

But Republican Town Councilor John LeTourneau said he was worried a local preference would turn away out-of-town firms from bidding on municipal projects, leading to less competition and ultimately higher costs to the town.

“If they aren’t bidding on a level playing field, then they might think twice about submitting a bid,” he said.

About 29 percent of Connecticut’s municipalities, including North Haven, Meriden, Middletown and Hamden, have some sort of local bidder preference program, In Meriden, a city-based company’s bid cannot be more than 10percent higher than the lowest bid to enact the program.

Republican Councilor Craig Fishbein said Wallingford has taken steps to help local companies, inserting language in bidding ordinances that says the town must give preference to local firms on projects that are below the bid threshold of $7,500.

Fishbein said he hopes to enlist help from the town’s legislative delegation to propose that the state abolish local bidding preferences. He said he had heard from local contractors who lost work in other towns despite submitting the lowest bid.

“I found out we are surrounded by towns that have these preferences,” Fishbein said. “It’s being used against our people.”

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