County gives local bidders edge
The Socorro County Commission approved an ordinance giving local bidders on county projects the edge during its regular meeting June 25.
Commissioner Juan Gutierrez was elected chair pro tem and conducted the meeting in the absence of Commissioner Daniel Monette and Commissioner Pauline Jaramillo.
The local option procurement preference ordinance gives local contractors a 2 percent advantage over bidders from outside the county in bidding on public projects within the county.
The ordinance explains a bid submitted by a Socorro County business is deemed as 2 percent lower than the amount actually submitted for bid. The ordinance requires local businesses to obtain a county preference certificate to establish their eligibility.
County Manager Delilah Walsh said New Mexico businesses already have a 5 percent preference in bidding for public projects as established by the legislature, which also granted in-state veterans a preference anywhere from 7 to 10 percent. She said this is one more preference, but it applies to local businesses within Socorro County.
County attorney Adren Nance asked if the local preference could possibly put a bidding veteran at a disadvantage if the veteran did not live in the county.
Walsh pointed out that to get the veterans preference, the contractor must also be based in New Mexico; the veterans preference comprises 5 percent for being in state, plus a few more points for being a veteran. She said the in-county preference will not interfere with state law giving veterans the advantage in bidding on public projects.
Commissioner Phillip Anaya said he thought local businesses should take precedence over everyone, veteran status notwithstanding.
Walsh said the legislature wanted to give in-state veterans a higher preference than everyone else. Nance stressed that the county must make sure its ordinance doesn’t interfere with what the legislature intended for veterans.
Nance noted Socorro is not the first county to pass a local option procurement preference; other counties, such as Santa Fe County, have been giving local bidders preference already.
He said it benefits the county to give preference to businesses that pay local gross receipts taxes. Nance said on the downside, the county could end up paying a little more than the absolute lowest bid submitted, although the difference would be minor.
Walsh said the county used to only see locals bidding on projects, but when the economy went into recession, bidders came from everywhere — even large firms that would normally not bother with projects under $1 million were bidding for Socorro County projects because they were “hungry.”
“But the people who support our county are the businesses that are in our county, and they’re here every day for the long haul,” Walsh said. “They’re not just here to grab a job, do it and move out.”
Walsh added she originally wanted a 5 percent preference for local businesses, but that would have been enough to bring the county’s procurement preference in conflict with state law.
The three commissioners present approved the local procurement preference unanimously.