Mayor Notes Low-Bid Process Doesn’t Support Awarding Preference to Local Vendors 

By Jim Smilie

A routine ordinance to award a uniform contract to the lowest bidder triggered a lengthy discussion on the administration and City Council’s desire to support local businesses during Tuesday night’s meeting of the Alexandria City Council.
The proposed ordinance called for awarding the city’s contract for annual work uniforms to the lowest bidder, which was a Cintas affiliate in Pineville. That triggered comments from John Miguez, owner of Caplan’s and Impact Advertising, about the importance of supporting local businesses rather than national companies.
Miguez said Caplan’s, a family-owned business located in downtown Alexandria, has served the city’s uniform needs for many years. He noted the city has signs posted on light poles outside of his store on Third Street encouraging residents to eat, drink and shop local and questioned why the city would choose a company outside of the city limits to handle the city’s needs.
Council members Cynthia Perry, Gary Johnson and Reddex Washington all voiced their support of awarding contracts to local vendors when possible.
Mayor Jacques Roy explained the administration also supports doing business with local companies, but that the city is required by law to follow state bid law requirements. Roy noted in some cases the city can issue Requests for Proposals (RFP) in which extra weight can be given to local companies.
“With an RFP, you can award extra points to a company for being local, or being woman-owned or minority-owned,” Roy explained. RFPs can be used for “professional services,” such as hiring an architectural firm. Proposals can be scored with points awarded by the reviewer to select the winning proposal.
In the case of routine supplies, such as uniforms, officials can’t score the proposals, they are bound to accept the lowest bid as long as the bid is from a “responsive bidder,” which means they have demonstrated they have the ability to do the work as advertised.
Roy said he delayed submitting the ordinance to the City Council for final approval to allow legal review to see if an RFP could have been issued for uniforms rather than the lowest-bid format that was used. Based on the feedback he received, Roy said, uniforms fall into the routine supplies category that uses the lowest-bid method.
Roy made it clear the administration prefers to support businesses located in Alexandria and encouraged the City Council to use the RFP method when possible to allow for the ability to award bonus points to Alexandria businesses or other special groups, such a women-owned, veteran-owned or minority-owned businesses.
In this case, Roy said based on the feedback and research he received it was his belief the council had no choice but to accept the lowest bid submitted by a responsive bidder, which in this case was Cintas.
When discussion ended and City Council President Lee Rubin called the question, the ordinance passed on a 4-3 vote, with council members Johnson, Perry and Washington voting no. The contract is for 12 months, with an option to renew for an additional 12 months.
In other business, the City Council approved the appointment of Ronald Morgan to serve as a commissioner with the Greater Alexandria Economic Development Authority (GAEDA). Morgan replaces Renee White Goolsby as the District 2 commissioner.