Hamlet officials eye local purchase preference

 

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

HAMLET — City leaders discussed tonight the idea of giving businesses within the city limits of Hamlet a preference when it comes to purchase a range of items.

City Manager Marcus Abernethy said Tuesday night during the City Council’s regular monthly public meeting that it was Councilman Eddie Martin’s idea. Abernethy said he and city attorney T.C. Morphis Jr. have researched the situation and no one “could find a law prohibiting us from doing this.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Hamlet City Council members vary on how and when to allow city employees the ability to purchase an item from a Hamlet business even if the price is higher.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Hamlet City Council members vary on how and when to allow city employees the ability to purchase an item from a Hamlet business even if the price is higher.

In general, the idea would be to allow city employees, primary purchasing agents and department heads, to purchase certain items of a certain range of prices in Hamlet even if the item could be purchased for less elsewhere.

If a project or service were put out to bid, for example, and the out-of-town business submitted the lowest qualified bid, the closest Hamlet business would be awarded the bid of the bid amount was within 5 percent of the low bid. The exact percentage had not yet been established.

“Staff has raised some concerns with a policy like this,” Abernehty said. “Our staff likes to purchase from Hamlet businesses whenever possible, but there are exceptions to the rule. I think we would like to have further discussion.”

Council members initiated that discussion during the public meeting. Abernethy said purchasing local is a benefit, but “as financial stewards of public money, they try to shop around.”

Abernethy said city workers should consider price, quality, inventory and availability and delivery time, among other factors.

“This is somewhat of a complex issue,” he said. “There are two sides to the situation.”

Martin said there are local companies that offer shirts and hats.

“Not only should we support these people, they pay taxes,” Martin said. “It’s just common sense to me. Buy from the people in Hamlet. If you can’t get it (here), go to Rockingham.”

Outgoing Councilman Pat Preslar, who has decided not to seek re-election after 16 years in office, suggested a sliding scale. If the item costs $1,000, for example, a 10 percent allowance might be reasonable. For a $30,000 purchase, 5 percent might be too large. Preslar said city officials have to consider staff time and cost if sending a city employee to Laurinburg or Southern Pines to pick up an item that could be purchased locally for a few extra dollars.

One business owner said the city of Hamlet has purchased little from her son’s store, Bill-Bilt Autocrats, in recent years. In 2014, Bernice Owens said the city spent only $6.34. The year prior to that, Owens said, “it might have been 20-something dollars.”

“This is our town and we try to live well and help everybody,” Owens said. “But then if the people are not going to help us … I’m about ready to stop trying and just retire.”

Jill Dickens, city finance officer, said the actual amount spent was $166.91.

Councilman Johnathan Buie chimed in: “That’s the attitude we don’t want.”

Abernethy said that regardless of how the updated policy reads, one thing is clear: “We’ll certainly be contacting our Hamlet businesses more often that we have in the past.”

Council members elected to table the issue until the next budget meeting scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. on April 30.

Filed in: Business, Featured News, Hamlet, Latest Headlines, News

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