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U-46 Board discusses local businesses option

By Seth Hancock
  Should and can School District U-46 do more business with local businesses to help boost the local economy?
  That’s a question board member Phil Costello asked the administration, and a discussion was had at the board meeting on Monday, May 7.
  In a memo to the board, the district stated: “We do not have a policy directing us to purchase local first…. I believe only home rule organizations in our state can favor certain categories of vendors based on their location and/or other factors.”
  Costello said at the May 7 meeting that he understands that things are never fully equal during a bidding process, but he felt some weight should be given to local businesses.
  “I think it’s important to say, if you’re doing business here and all things being equal… we should be looking for vendors who do business in U-46 to attract more employers here to hire more and make this a more vibrant district,” Costello said.
  Board member Sue Kerr said she didn’t disagree but the state’s school code requires the lowest bid to be taken.
  “A lot of our bidding has a metric, a rubric, of we weight it 80 percent this and price is that, and one of those could be location I think,” Costello replied. “And I’m fine saying if it can’t be.”
  One recent example was in February when the board approved a $1.5 million contract with Comcast for wide area network and internet services. Ultimately the lowest bidder for the internet portion of the contract, WOW Business which came in nearly $20,000 cheaper than Comcast, but did not win the contract.
  That proposal weighted the bidders on a 100 point-system, price receiving the largest weight at 30 points. Other factors included technical functionality (25 points), completeness and accuracy of proposal (20 points), references and experience (10 points), service and support (10 points) and price of ineligible goods and services (five points).
  Jeff King, deputy superintendent of operations, said: “We do use a rubric around service and some of the other non-quantifiable factors, but we can’t consider location as one of them. Anything that we competitively bid, we can’t do that.”
  King said this wasn’t the first time the board has questioned this, and U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said he’d have the district’s legal counsel look into it further.
  Costello said “that’s too bad” but added: “I’m fine with that. I was just thinking that when we’re talking about ACE and some of the other things we’re trying to be collaborative about, I thought this would be one element that we could say ‘you operate here, you do business and you employ people here we want to set you aside.’”
  ACE is the Alignment Collaborative for Education initiative the district started with a stated goal in part being to develop business relationships within U-46 boundaries.
  King said: “We do a significant amount of business with contractors in the area. On the operations side especially, a big portion of our business is locally given based on electrical, etc., maintenance items that are occurring in buildings. Obviously we don’t want to call somebody or do business with somebody that’s several hours away. In those instances, we need somebody to get into the building and do something right away.”
  The board’s policy under Section 4.062 that expenditure items “in excess of $25,000 or $50,000 for construction projects” must come before the board for approval. King said location could be considered for items under that $25,000 parameter but the board would likely have to change its policy to put that into effect.




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