BUZZ Blog: Councilor wants changes after $5 million local construction project goes to out-of-town contractor
Peter Passi and Brandon Stahl cover issues related to the city of Duluth. Follow BUZZ on Twitter.
The $5 million that got away
Something I didn't write about last week but should have: the Port Authority has a (pinky finger to lips) $5 million rehab project coming to repair its corroding docks -- unfortunately, that's money that had to go to an out-of-area contractor.
Yes, that contractor, Roen Salvage Company of Sturgeon Bay, WI, was the low bidder. But they beat out the second low bidder, RJS Construction Group of Superior, by less than $30,000.
While the money is coming from the federal highway administration, a state grant and a Port Authority match, the city of Duluth -- and the city council -- was chosen to administer the money for the project. And said council President Jeff Anderson, their hands were tied by bid laws to award the contract to Roen.
And that, he believes, is wrong.
"It should have gone local," he said. "This happens from time to time on purchasing issues whether it's a $5 million project or buying a new dump truck. We run into situations where a local company comes in as a slightly higher bidder but we end up having to go with the lowest bid."
While it does save tax dollars by going with the local bidder, Anderson laments the lack of government money that goes into the local economy, so he said he and councilor Tony Cuneo have been working on proposed changes to the bidding process where local companies get more preference, even if they're the higher bidders.
Anderson said he doesn't want to stop there, however, and would want to see a bidding change that would give preference to company's that hire veterans, offer equal/same-sex partner benefits, and/or are women- or minority-owned.
He said he's floated this around to a few people, and hasn't heard much negative in return. And so what do the BUZZ readers think?