ALBANY, Ga. -- After local businesses failed to submit bids for roof repair work on three county businesses, at least one county commissioner wants the county to take a closer look at the bidding process to ensure that local participants aren't being left out of the process.
During Monday's business meeting, Commissioners voted to award $375,000 worth of construction bids to Macon's L.E. Schwartz & Son Inc. to repair the roof on the Dougherty County Mental Health Building, Fire Station 08 on Newton Road and Fire Station 09 on Antioch Road.
Schwartz, who was the low bidder on all three projects by a total of $139,767 from the next highest bidder.
The top three bidders on all three projects were from outside the Albany-Dougherty metro area, a fact that Commissioner Gloria Gaines said was troubling.
"I'm very, very, concerned about this. I'm concerned there has been no meaningful public input on these bids," Gaines said. "It's a troubling issue for me that we'll award these contracts and ... don't have any local participation."
The county recently voted twice on a proposed small business program that was intended to ensure small businesses had a place at the table when government contracts were handed out, the last time on April 12 on a 4-3 vote to implement it.
But the bids Monday contained no local companies. Schwartz was the closest, followed by Southeast Roofing Solution out of Statesboro and Kiker Corporation out of Mobile, Ala.
Chairman Jeff Sinyard, who himself is a small business owner, said he is a proponent of aiding small businesses, but that the county must balance that concern with the careful and considerate use of tax dollars.
"Obviously, we're all disappointed we didn't have local participation ... but if you're not out there hustling and participating you can't expect the government to hand it to you," Sinyard said. "We need to do everything we can to help build local business and train them and make sure the field is level, but we still have to be smart with the taxpayers' money."
Commissioner John Hayes referred to the situation as a paradox, saying that the government shouldn't legislate every facet of life, but that it was important for smaller businesses to have access to the proper tools to compete with larger businesses so they can grow.
"Somewhere along the way right things have to be done non-legislatively. Ideally, we all should just do the right things without being told or made to," Hayes said. "...It's a bit of a paradox. I understand we can't force people to be at the table, but the program we've been talking about doesn't have the necessary teeth to accomplish the desired result."
Before discussion ended, Gaines requested of County Administrator Richard Crowdis a review of the bidding procedures because "the results (of the bids), in my mind, present a certain amount of suspicion of the process."