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Local contractors may get preference from Gainesville
Attorney general: Rule can only apply to small contracts
Bill McQuillen of Scroggs and Grizzel saws a piece of wood for rough framing Wednesday afternoon at the Frances Meadows Center rotunda. The Gainesville City Council may move forward with an ordinance allowing it to prefer local contractors on city construction jobs.

The Gainesville City Council may soon legally move forward with an ordinance that would allow them to prefer local contractors on city construction jobs, but it may not get them very far.

Following a decision from the state’s attorney general’s office, council members can legally pass an ordinance that would allow them to give city construction bids to local contractors even if the local contractor was not the lowest bidder. Yet the ordinance would only apply to a few of the city’s construction jobs.

The letter affirms what City Attorney James E. "Bubba" Palmour said might be the case in March: City Council can only give preference to local vendors on contracts that are less than $100,000.

Any contracts above $100,000 are subject to the Georgia Local Government Public Works Construction Law, the letter confirmed. Although council members still supported such an ordinance at last week’s work session, City Manager Bryan Shuler said it may not be a widely used ordinance.

"We have very little work under $100,000 that’s construction," Shuler said. "You can’t hardly hire anybody for less than $100,000."

Shuler said renovation projects and small jobs that the city’s Public Lands and Buildings division may fall under the ordinance, but not much else.

"Construction is not inexpensive, so most (jobs) are going to fall above that amount," he said.

Councilman Danny Dunagan, who first brought the idea of a local vendor preference ordinance up in a March work session, still thinks the council should move forward with the ordinance and says it will not be long before one is on the books.

Dunagan wants an ordinance that would give the council some leeway if a local contractor was within a small percentage— say 3 percent — of the lowest bid. Other council members seem to be in line with Dunagan’s idea. At last week’s work session, Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Bruner and Councilman George Wangemann echoed Dunagan’s sentiments.

Mayor Myrtle Figueras wants room in the ordinance to leave the decision-making up to the professionals, dealing with each bid on a case-by-case basis.

"I still would like to give the professionals a choice in what they come up with," Figueras said. "We are good folks, we have our thoughts, but we pay people a lot of money in this city to make decisions."

Dunagan said he feels giving these construction jobs to local contractors is best for all involved. He says the council should at least give local contractors the chance to bring their bids down to become the lowest bidder.

Dunagan, a local businessman, said he has heard cries from the local people that the council should support their businesses.

"I’m just saying that they feel like if they’ve got a close bid they should be given the chance," Dunagan said.

Dunagan said a draft of the ordinance should be on the table "pretty soon," to him the benefits of giving preference to local contractors is simple:

"They’re local, they pay local taxes and they hire local people."

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