July 18. 2013 8:58PM

Local businesses won't get special treatment in Windham

Union Leader Correspondent

WINDHAM — A policy that would have made it mandatory for the town to give preference to local businesses that bid on town projects was rejected by the Windham Board of Selectmen this week.

Though board members and town officials overwhelmingly agreed on the importance of supporting area vendors, a proposal to require the town to award projects to any local business that comes within 5 percent of the lowest project bid was ultimately shot down on Monday.

Other changes to the town's purchasing policy were approved, however.

Under the revised policy, only purchases over $15,000 would require board and/or town administrator approval, Windham Town Administrator David Sullivan said. The current policy states that the town administrator and the board must authorize any municipal goods and services purchases between $2,500 and $7,500.

The previous practice of obtaining a minimum of three written bid proposals with pricing quotes would still stand.

Sullivan said further changes to the town's purchasing policy would be finalized during the board's next regular meeting later this month.

In recent months, a procurement committee consisting of Finance Director Dana Call, Police Chief Gerald Lewis, Highway Agent Jack McCartney, IT Director Eric DeLong and Transfer Station Manager David Poulson have been meeting regularly to closely examine the current purchasing policy and make changes as needed.

During Monday night's meeting, Poulson said he felt the revisions are necessary in order to streamline and simplify the overall process.

"When we put this committee together we believed we could purchase better and with more efficiency and more effectiveness," he told the board. "The system is not broken but it sure as heck can be improved."

"We're surely not trying to take away any of the board's authority," Sullivan added. "Because collectively, we are a team."

The town administrator said he drew the line, however, at making it mandatory to award bids to local merchants.

"What it comes down to is that we don't want to spend money for the same product we could get for a lower price," Sullivan said. "Besides that, I'm not even sure if such (a mandate) is legal."

"We've always encouraged local businesses," he added. "But when we flat out give preference this way, that's when we're getting into iffy territory."

The Windham Board of Selectmen will hold its next regular meeting on Monday, July 29, at 7 p.m. in the Community Development Room next door to Windham Town Hall.aguilmet@newstote.com