Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Chamber upset at city hall

The City of Timmins needs to follow its own purchasing bylaw when its come to tendering, and it needs to do more to buy locally.
That was part of the advice offered by the Timmins Chamber of Commerce which addressed Timmins city council at a budget planning session this week.
Chamber president Marilyn Wood suggested not enough city purchases are being bought through the tender process and more local businesses should have the opportunity to bid.
“We have had an ongoing concern about the estimated ten million dollars of city purchasing from out of town vendors,” Wood told council.
She suggested that fewer businesses and entrepreneurs would be willing to set up shop in Timmins if it’s regarded as not supporting local business.
“Our request is not for local preference but rather for local opportunity,” she explained.
“Enforcement of the (purchasing) bylaw is extremely important. If items are not being tendered, how does council know if they’re getting the best deal?,” she added.
Wood says the chamber’s concern is that the city will occasionally deal with a direct supplier, and just assume it is getting the best available price, without giving local suppliers a chance to bid on the goods or services needed. This means the lawful bidding process is ignored. She added that many local businesses don’t find out about a tender until it’s too late. Wood says sometimes only a handful of local businesses, and even out of town companies, are contacted by the city and asked for a quote. She says not all businesses aware of tenders posted on the city’s website or published in the city’s municipal page.
“And when there is local competition, the question we have is why are invitations being issued to out of town businesses?”, Wood added.
Coun. Gary Scripnick said he did not fully agree with the notion of not inviting out-of-town businesses to bid on city projects.
“I believe we must support all our communities in Northeastern Ontario, such as Kapuskasing and Iroquois Falls,” he argued.
“That’s a sensitive issue to me because if we start putting up walls and say you have to only buy in Timmins then our other communities in the area, it could hurt them.
I think its important to have strong communities around us.”
“We are like the grandfather and we’ve got to take care of our children, those smaller communities out there. So this ‘buying local’ I have a hard time with it,” Scripnick said.
Coun. Mike Doody admitted there is always room for improvement in the bidding process, but said council is obligated to get the best price and sometimes that means going out of town.
“I have been there to open the tenders. Sometimes it’s the out-of-town tender that is lower than the local tender. In some cases, they’re not sharpening their pencils. It’s a competitive business. We have an obligation. If we can get it cheaper, we’re going to get it cheaper. And I would hope that the taxpayer would see that view”, said Doody.
Wood admitted that some local prices could indeed be higher. Wood said she wasn’t pushing for a strict ‘buy local’ policy but instead to merely bring changes so that more local businesses have the opportunity to place a bid, when city hall needs goods and services.

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