By PETER HUSSMANN
Don't go there was the consensus of the Newton City Council on Monday when it discussed the possibility of instituting a "buy local" policy or ordinance in regard to city purchases.
The issue surfaced for the second time in two years after the council recently decided to not to accept the low bid on purchases and agreed to pay just slightly more in order to make the purchase locally. Two years ago, the council rejected adoption of such an ordinance.
In the most recent cases, the council rejected the recommendation of the city administrator in agreeing to the higher purchase price. That led to city staff to seek direction from the council on how it wanted to handle purchasing decisions.
While council members supported efforts to "buy local" when they could, they realized that allowing local bidders an advantage could have detrimental effects by limiting the bids received, raising costs to the city and facing charges of favoritism from the vendor community.
In his report to the council on the issue, City Administrator Bob Knabel warned that adopting an ordinance or policy was fraught with potential pitfalls. The council members, during the brief discussion, seemed to concur.
"I don't like the idea of painting ourselves into a corner," said council member Noreen Otto.
Other council members took their cues from their experiences in their own businesses, stating that accepting the low bid was the traditional best business practice.
While council members said that they still could use their discretion when approving bids - as they did in the case in deciding to buy from a local car dealer whose bid on a vehicle was just $24 over the low bid - they were warned of the potential ramifications.
"I caution you that deciding on a case-by-case basis leaves you open to charges of favoritism," Knabel said.
No further action on a "buy local" policy or ordinance is expected.