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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Nashua’s Finance Committee supports alderman’s local preference proposal

NASHUA – The city Finance Committee recommended a new local preference ordinance that would give Nashua businesses preference over others when awarding bids.

The ordinance was put forward by Ward 9 Alderman Ken Siegel. He said a recent situation in which a Nashua sporting goods company lost out on a bid with the Nashua School District over $1 was “the genesis” for the proposed legislation, which was passed unanimously Wednesday and will head to the full Board of Aldermen. ...

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NASHUA – The city Finance Committee recommended a new local preference ordinance that would give Nashua businesses preference over others when awarding bids.

The ordinance was put forward by Ward 9 Alderman Ken Siegel. He said a recent situation in which a Nashua sporting goods company lost out on a bid with the Nashua School District over $1 was “the genesis” for the proposed legislation, which was passed unanimously Wednesday and will head to the full Board of Aldermen.

Alderman David Deane called the tale a “$1 horror story,” which he said was “ridiculous.”

Siegel’s proposal, if successful, would adjust bids from outside Nashua to 5 percent less than the offered price if the contract is $10,000 or less. For contracts larger than $10,000, the bids would be reduced by 3 percent for out-of-city companies.

“We tend to buy things all over the place based strictly on the metric of lowest price,” Siegel said as he pitched the ordinance.

“Local merchants deserve to have some consideration and deserve to have the sense that, as part of the Nashua community, we recognize their contribution.”

Siegel said the proposal would increase competition if it’s successful.

“You are more likely to have bidders be more aggressive,” he said.

Siegel’s proposal would give local preference only to companies within Nashua’s borders, but he said that could change.

“Let’s keep it within the Nashua borders for now because that’s an absolute,” Siegel said. “If we need to extend it for some reason, we can do that as need be.”

“It’s going to make people sharpen their pencils,” Deane said of the legislation, which is co-sponsored by three other aldermen.

Alderman Pam Brown thanked Siegel for drafting the legislation.

“We do need to support our local businesses,” she said.

Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said her administration had already examined the possibility of establishing a local preference, but shied away from the idea because of expected legal challenges.

Lozeau called the dilemma a “real struggle,” and asked the city’s purchasing manager, Robert Gabriel, to weigh in.

Gabriel told the committee he had constructed a local preference statement nearly six years ago, but “stopped short of putting a dollar amount.”

Gabriel said the city’s legal department asked him to weigh in on the matter after Siegel’s proposal, and Gabriel read his response to the committee.

“Such a preference does not encourage competition,” Gabriel said. “It could negatively impact the city and will most likely face a legal challenge.”

Gabriel stressed his long ties to Nashua, saying he was conflicted and knows the importance of doing business locally, but recommended the committee to look away from the preference proposal.

“It was specifically crafted the way it is so it would not be subject to legal challenges,” Siegel said.

“It’s my understanding that this legislation was modeled after existing legislation that has survived legal challenges.”

Bradford Randall can be reached at 594-6557 or brandall@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Randall on Twitter (@telegraph_bradr).