By Jesse Wood
June 19, 2013. In unanimous agreement, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners adopted a policy supporting the local bidder-match preference for county contracts at its Tuesday evening meeting.
The new policy concerns contracts with the county valued between $15,000 and $30,000 and parallels an Executive Order signed by former Gov. Bev Perdue that gives North Carolina companies an opportunity to match the lowest bidder for a contract with a state agency – if a local bidder was within 5 percent or $10,000 of the lowest bid.
County Attorney Four Eggers said the state does not require municipalities to take the lowest bidder for contracts under $30,000 and that the county already has a local policy to take bids for more than $15,000.
“What I like about it is we still get the lowest price, but we give a local contractor a chance to match the price [while using local] goods, services and presumably local labor with our tax dollars,” Chair Nathan Miller said. “That’s what I like about it.”
Commissioner Billy Kennedy said he was in favor of the policy but was concerned that local companies could hire laborers from down the mountain. He suggested a clause that would limit those local bidders to hiring local laborers.
“This is not a protection for workers. This is a protection for business,” Kennedy said.
Miller responded that he didn’t want to “micromanage” the process even more.
Commissioner Perry Yates spearheaded this policy in January when he voiced his displeasure that a company out of Hickory outbid Boone-based Greene Construction by less than $1,400 to construct a data room in the Agriculture Conference Center on King Street.
“We sit up here and we say ‘Shop Local,’ support local businesses and here we are giving it to a guy from Catawba County in Hickory,” Yates said in January. “I got a real problem being that we need jobs and money funneled into the county.”