This week the Winnebago County Board was a bit slow so to speak.  That is, county business still went on as usual, but because of Christmas & New Year’s, there just wasn’t a ton going on.

One thing that did appear however this week in our Operations Committee was an agenda item awarding cleaning services.  Normally, this is a run-of-the-mill procedure, with the lowest bid winning the job.  Because this item was alone on the agenda, it allowed us to take a closer look on how we handle and award bids here in Winnebago County.

Taking a closer look, what’s interesting about this bid is that originally, a non-local vendor was looking like it would win.  Ultimately, due to their out-of-town response time and some OSHA compliance questions, it did end up going local.

A close call, but it got me thinking:

Does the County have protocol in place to prefer local vendors over non-local?

Sure, County ordinance says it favors local companies when it is “the best & lowest responsible bid”,  but what exactly does that mean?  Is there a checklist or is it purely subjective?

I reached out to our Winnebago County Purchasing Director Roman Gray, who is an absolute rock star for the county.  Coming aboard after Sally Clausen, he had a tall order ahead of him and was up for the challenge.  Roman has put hours of time and effort into overhauling how we do things here and makes sure we’re as close to 100% transparent as possible moving forward in our purchases. Roman as always gave me a detailed explanation of his process, and at the end of the day “the best & lowest responsible bidder” was what we used to determine the winning bid.

I am certainly glad it worked out this way, but I’d like to see it taken a step further for even more transparency and greater opportunities for our local workforce.

Do we need to take another glance to make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep Winnebago County money in Winnebago County?

Personally, when I have gone after bids for websites from other municipalities, I have seen point systems used not just for location, but for a whole laundry list of qualifications.  Naturally it’s spelled out very clearly that local companies get awarded extra points and it makes perfect sense most of the time. Why can’t we do something a bit more in-depth and similar?  Do our laws allow it, or is it solely a matter of interpretation?

Thinking about it more the next day, I had quick chat with County Board Chairman Frank Haney and Operations Chairman Gary Jury.  Both of them agreed it was worth taking a look at in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned!  It may not not be the most exciting thing in the world, but if we can tweak the system a bit to make sure we’re giving jobs to more local companies, I think that could be a nice win!

Thoughts on the matter?  Let me know!  Until next time, thanks for reading!