The Craig City Council was divided Tuesday night on whether to award the bid for 2002 water system improvement work to the low bidder or the local bidder, whose bid was about $700 higher than the low bid.
The vote was 5-2 in favor awarding to contract to the low bidder with Mayor Dave DeRose and Councilor Don Jones voting against the motion.
The debate is not new. Councilor Bill Johnston has asked several times whether the council should consider rewriting the ordinance to allow special consideration for local bidders.
The current ordinance requires the council to take the low bid. M.J. Miller out of Steamboat Springs submitted a bid of $290,525.00. Anson Excavating submitted a bid of $291,214.60.
"I've been a real stickler for taking the low bid, but this is less than 1/4 percent," Jones said. "I think we ought to stick with the local bid and go with Anson."
City Manager Jim Ferree said some cities do give preference to local bidders, but it creates a difficult situation.
Two obstacles include defining "local" and whether the process would drive away out-of-town bidders, giving the city no options in some cases or allowing businesses to drive up costs.
Mike Miller attended the meeting and said seven of his 25 employees live in Craig.
"With the amount of people we have working that live here, I'd like to be considered local," he said. "We'd really like to do the work. To do the job. We were the low bidder."
DeRose said the council should always "buy local" and said he would always vote that way.
Legally, the council really had no choice, as Councilor Tom Gilchrist pointed out.
"There are no exemptions in the ordinance to allow us to change our practice," he said. "There are exemptions, but this case isn't one."
The council adjourned into executive session on the advice of city attorney Sherman Romney so he could offer them legal advice on the situation.
Representatives from M.J. Miller and Anson Excavation both attended the meeting.
"It's gonna put a bad taste in some people's mouths if you go with a local contractor when you invited four other companies to bid," Miller said before the executive session.
Anson was awarded the contract for the work last year.