November 14, 2012

Shop local when possible

The Daily Citizen

— Since early October of this year, local governments and school systems have announced or begun construction on four significant new projects, totaling $20 million, including renovations at the Dalton-Whitfield Senior Center, new labs at the Northwest Georgia College and Career Academy, a new science building at Dalton State College and a new turf field at Dalton High School. The work on these projects has the potential to give the local economy a needed boost if we use local resources.

The work on the senior center, for instance, is being done by local architects and contractors. But work at some of the other projects will be going to firms from outside the Greater Dalton community.

There may be valid reasons for this. Those firms may have expertise that our local firms don’t have. They may be able to significantly underbid local firms. If so, local officials should be able to explain that to voters and taxpayers.

Elected officials must be good stewards of taxpayer dollars, but they should also remember that the dollars they spend are, for the most part, generated locally and try to return those dollars to the local community when appropriate.

Some local governments even have “buy local” provisions and will award some contracts to local vendors if they are within a reasonable percentage of the lowest bid. If they can do that when buying vehicles and office supplies, they should be able to do it when building or renovating facilities. If a local architect or contractor can provide the same quality work as an outside firm, and their price is no more than 5 percent or so above the lowest bid, we’d like to see them awarded the contract for any project.

We’d like to see the same rule applied to the attorneys that do legal work for local governments.

If local voters and taxpayers agree, they should express their concerns to their elected representatives. And when local governments do use outside firms, they should be required to explain why.