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Gainesville council approves business preference measure
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Local businesses could receive preference when it comes to bidding on small projects, Gainesville City Council voted Tuesday.

More than two years after the ordinance was first proposed, it's going on the books - but with a few changes.

Local vendors will be given the opportunity to match the lowest price for any city bid, proposal or contract between $20,000 and $100,000 if they are within 3 percent of the lowest price proposal. If more than one local vendor is within 3 percent, the one with the lowest proposal will be given the first opportunity to match the lowest price.

"This is the way to allow local businesses a chance to meet the lowest price," said Mayor Ruth Bruner. "They pay local taxes and hire local people, and we want to help them."

Local vendors are defined as businesses that have a physical address within Gainesville city limits and a current business license, are considered in good standing with the city, have paid in full all real and personal taxes owed to the city, and can obtain an active vendor status.

"We want to do business with the people who do business with us," said council member Danny Dunagan, who first proposed the idea in March 2008.

Dunagan, a local businessman, opened up discussion about the ordinance when he heard cries from local business owners that the council should support their businesses. After some research and a letter to the state's attorney general's office in June 2008, City Attorney James "Bubba" Palmour found state law blocks them from awarding local preference to contracts over $100,000.

Any contracts above $100,000 are subject to the Georgia Local Government Public Works Construction Law, which requires that local governments follow a "competitive sealed bidding" process for all public construction projects and award the project to the lowest "responsive and responsible" bidder who meets the qualifications and specifications of the bid.

An award is made to the vendor whose proposal is determined to be "most advantageous" to the city and provides the best overall value to the city by meeting the evaluation criteria in the bid proposal and any contract terms, according to current Gainesville code.

The new ordinance will apply to renovation projects and small jobs in the city.

"Hopefully, it'll be good for local businesses," said City Manager Kip Padgett. "It's taken a while because we were researching other governments. It's a mixed bag out there, so we looked for what would work in Gainesville."