by Joe Wilhelm Jr.
Creating more jobs with taxpayer dollars is the mission of a proposed ordinance that would amend the City’s policy of awarding contracts to give preference to companies based on their proximity to Jacksonville and the size of their staff.
The Seaport/Airport Special Committee discussed Ordinance 2008-1055 Tuesday at City Hall because the committee was created to assist with the development of the Jacksonville Port and Aviation Authorities. That development will require a multitude of professional services and Council members Daniel Davis and Art Graham sponsored the legislation to give the local business community a better chance to earn those contracts.
“I think the guidelines (for bids) are pretty fair,” said Davis, chair of the committee. “I have every intention of achieving the goal that we have set forth, and that is a way to create and maintain more jobs with taxpayer dollars.”
Davis also revealed that he received a mixed response regarding the ordinance from those same taxpayers, some of whom made up the largest audience that the committee has hosted in its short history. Most of the about 50 people in attendance wanted to hear about the ordinance.
“I’ve heard a lot of good info from proponents and opponents of this issue,” said Davis. “And some of it has stuck to the wall.”
The committee requested that the Procurement Division research who had received contracts in the past and how other cities were setting policy in trying to encourage local businesses to compete for contracts.
“We just can’t compare ourselves to ourselves,” said Stephen Joost, City Council member and committee member. “I’d like to see a comparison to similar cities. We are not alone in this, other cities are having problems like this.”
The proposed ordinance seeks to amend the Professional Services Evaluation Committee (PESC) procedure of the Procurement Code. The PESC reviews the qualifications of the companies that submit bids for City contracts. One of the criteria is “proximity to the project involved.”
Proposed ordinance 2008-1055 adds a value system that rewards bidders that are close to the project. Those with “headquarters” in Jacksonville for 12 months prior to the request for proposals (RFP) are the most desirable in the proposed system. This is followed by businesses with secondary offices located in the City for 60 months prior to the RFP. The next two steps of the system include businesses with offices outside of Jacksonville, but in Florida and, lastly, business without offices in Florida. The size of the staff of these businesses can also make a proposal look more appealing to the PESC. The full text of the ordinance can be found on the City’s Web site, www.coj.net.
The incoming chair of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce has experienced the same mixed response about the proposed ordinance that Davis has. Mike Hightower expressed this in a letter to City Council President Ronnie Fussell.
“Recently, we have heard increasing and considerable concerns from many of our members including representatives of both large and small businesses,” Hightower wrote. “We have also heard from our headquartered firms which could potentially benefit if this legislation passes.
What is clear from these communications is that there is apparent confusion and growing apprehension among a number of leaders of Jacksonville businesses (headquartered locally and elsewhere) and a desire that any changes be made with all due diligence, thoughtful discussion and analysis, resulting in the best and most equitable outcome and minimizing any unintended consequences.”
Fussell informed the public at Tuesday’s City Council meeting that the proposed ordinance had been sent back to committee for further deliberation.
In other Airport/Seaport Committee News:
• Clay County Commission Chair Wendell Davis met with the committee and expressed enthusiasm about working with Duval County to support the development of Cecil Commerce Center and the port. When asked, he reported there is a “growing confidence” that the First Coast Outer Beltway project will get support in Tallahassee.
• Not present at the committee meeting, a representative from the Port Authority. Davis asked Port Authority Liaison Dr. Johnny Gaffney to pass a message that they are requested to be at every meeting. Eric Green, Port Authority Senior Director for Government and External Affairs, later contacted Davis to apologize and explain that the Port Authority staff were preparing to meet with the cruise industry and the preparation meeting lasted longer than expected.