PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Seven years after a local preference policy was adopted by the Bay County Commission, it has been repealed.
In a four to one vote, the policy, which has been debated for years, was struck down at Tuesday’s regular County Commission meeting; while some think the change is necessary, others believe it hurts the community.
“I was pretty disappointed this morning,” said local contractor, George Roberts, owner of Roberts and Roberts construction and President of the Bay County Contractors Association. “We do have some jobs coming up in the future that it could affect.”
The Bay County Commission voted to get rid of the policy, which gives local vendors the chance to match out of town vendors if their bids are within 5 percent. Since the policy’s introduction in 2014, it’s only been used two times according to county officials, awarding bids to Minuteman Security Services for a $50 thousand contract, and to Triangle Construction for a $200 thousand contract.
“Five percent of a smaller project is not that much money,” Roberts said. “It just gives us the opportunity to match that and if it’s only been two times then it should not have been a big deal but one day it could help somebody, especially our local guys, that could use that five percent.”
Commissioner Griff Griffitts voted to repeal the policy. He said while he’s sympathetic towards the local contractors’ concerns, the decision was necessary.
“While local preference in theory is great, we want to keep the money local, it has a trickle down effect, it’s simply, right now it’s not good business in Bay County to continue to do it that way,” he said.
Griffitts said repealing the policy is in large part a result of the recent indictments in Lynn Haven.
“It doesn’t seem to be practical right now,” he said. “It doesn’t preclude anyone from bidding, it just makes the bids more aggressive.”
Commissioner Bill Dozier disagreed, voting against the repeal.
“I was one of the ones that worked on local preference, trying to craft the language to benefit the people of Bay County,” Dozier said. “I think the way it’s written, when you’re dealing with apples to apples that it does benefit the people of Bay County.”
Roberts said he agrees with Dozier.
“I think Commissioner Dozier was the only one that stood up for the community,” said Roberts. “It makes a difference in what we do every day. It also affects everybody’s family whenever somebody locally doesn’t get a job, especially when we’re putting back onto the community.”
The policy was repealed effective immediately after the vote on Tuesday.