City of Washington

The local purchasing policy in Washington has long been to leave the decisions up the discretion of the city council, which historically has chosen the lowest and best bids.

After discussing the idea of giving a percentage preference to local firms, the council Monday night decided to maintain the status quo.

The council voted 7-1 against setting a formal local preference policy. Councilman Mark Hidritch voted no.

The idea for adopting a formal policy of setting a percentage for local bidders stemmed from a December meeting and the purchase of a new pickup truck.

The city received two bids, one from a Jefferson City dealer that holds the current state contract and one from a Washington dealership. The Washington bid was $1,586 more, so the recommendation was to approve the Jefferson City bid.

At the time, Hidritch said the city should stay local even if it means spending a little more money. He pointed out that, at the November meeting, the city agreed to pay $500 more to purchase goods from a local vendor.

The council agreed that it should support local firms whenever possible, but questioned how much more money spent was too much. The council discussed adding a percentage system that would give them guidance.

If the local preference percentage was 5 percent, for example, the city would have been OK with spending the $500 more in November However, the 8 percent difference on the truck bids would be too much of an increase, most council members said.

Mayor Sandy Lucy said she supported staying local, but at the same time the council acts as stewards of citizens’ tax dollars. Lucy instructed City Administrator Jim Briggs to see what other communities do and to see if a percentage-based policy was in the best interest of the city.

After checking things out, Briggs told the council at the Jan. 27 administration/operations meeting he feels a policy is not needed.

“I recommend we continue what we’re doing,” he said.

Briggs said the unofficial plan in place should remain. Smaller purchases done by staff should go to the lowest bidders, while bigger-ticket items should be decided by the council.

Briggs said he sought input from 200 other communities about local preference percentages and heard back from eight. Frontenac, for example, has a local preference. Arnold stays local if the cost does not exceed the low bid by 5 percent.

Without a clear consensus, Briggs took the approach that if it isn’t broke, it doesn’t need fixing.

“Our recommendation is for purchases done by staff, the lowest is the best,” Briggs said. “Anything that comes to you all as a council, use your discretion.”