Dougherty Co. bid for police cars upsets local car dealer again

Dougherty Co. bid for police cars upsets local car dealer again
One Albany businessman said his bid came well within a 2 percent local preference option, used by other governments. (Source: WALB)
One Albany businessman said his bid came well within a 2 percent local preference option, used by other governments. (Source: WALB)
Harry Prisant, the fleet manager at Sunbelt Ford Lincoln of Albany (Source: WALB)
Harry Prisant, the fleet manager at Sunbelt Ford Lincoln of Albany (Source: WALB)

DOUGHERTY CO., GA (WALB) - One Albany car dealer is frustrated over a county policy that he says hurts local business.

Harry Prisant, the fleet manager at Sunbelt Ford Lincoln of Albany, listened as Dougherty County commissioners voted unanimously on Monday, March 5, 2018 to purchase four new police cars from the lowest bidder.

The lowest bidder this time is a dealership out of the Atlanta area.

Prisant said his bid came well within a 2 percent local preference option, used by other governments.

That means a local bidder can match an out-of-town bidder's price, as long as it is within a 2 percent margin.

"If it was 2 percent and one penny, I wouldn't say a word," said Prisant. "But, anything within a margin of 2 percent, we ought to have the opportunity to match the out of town bidders price. It is not about me, it is not about our business. It is about everybody that does business with Dougherty County. I would just like them to finally get around to finally seeing about voting about it. The Dougherty County School System has got it. The City of Albany has got it. It is the right thing to do."

Dougherty County does not currently have a 2 percent local preference option.

The county's interim administrator said there are no official plans at this time to discuss adopting a local preference.

One week later, the commission chairman sent a statement explaining the county's position on the local preference option.

From Chris Cohilas, Dougherty County Commission Chairman:

The Dougherty County Commission has not affirmatively adopted a local preference option, but has not voted for or against it.  It has been a matter that has been studied and inquired into at multiple meetings and through communications with staff over the past twelve months.  Data has been requested and examined with respect to the effectiveness of such policies in practice by other communities.

Here are some of the facts that the Commission has received regarding this issue:

From November, 2014 through December, 2017 there were 49 contract awards where a local preference could have been applied. Only ten (10) of those 49 awards fell within the 2% range and one (1) fell at 8%. None fell between 2% and 5%. There were two (2) awards without a local bidder, and thirty-six (36) awards to local bidders without the use of the preference.

The City of Albany's staff documented the following perceived advantages of a local preference option as being:

·         Bolstering the local economy 

·         Demonstrating commitment to the success of local businesses 

The City of Albany's staff further documented the following Disadvantages: 

·         A local preference discourages out of town vendors from bidding and limits competition.

·         Purchasing preference opens the door for requests for favoritism from other groups which could result in a complex network of preferences.?

Dollars kept locally would only be the profit in a sale and not the full cost of a product, so impact on the economy would be slight.  Local Vendors should already have a natural advantage due to delivery and service.

The National Association of Purchasing Managers and the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing, certifying bodies for Purchasing Agents and Buyers, both have proclamations against any preference in purchasing, but instead advocate free and open market competition as in the best interest of the governing body or company.

There are proponents for a local preference option and there are opponents.  The pros and cons for a local preference option have been debated in a number of communities throughout the nation.  The debate over the pros and cons on this issue is fair, and one that should be had. I invite everyone that is interested in this issue to share their thoughts and opinions with either myself or their respective Commissioners.  That is the job that we were elected to do.

I am a local business owner.  I, along with my business partners, own a business in downtown Albany that employs many Dougherty County citizens.  My business is directly affected by the success or lack of success that our community achieves. Furthermore, while I cannot speak for my fellow commissioners--I can say they are a group of conscientious men and women who have worked hard to improve not only the business environment in Dougherty County, but further the dialogue surrounding it. 

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