by Mickey Smith
A concern by a local business owner that has appeared online on Front Porch Forum and in this week’s letters to the editor section has sparked a question about municipalities being cognizant of buying locally.
Emily Locke, owner of Peck's Flower Shop, raised the concern after the Morristown School District purchased flowers for this week's graduation from someone in Hardwick rather than her Morrisville- based shop, which has been supplying flowers since long before she purchased the business.
Locke states in her letter, her service has always been timely and at a fair price.
Lamoille South Superintendent Tracy Wrend said the decision to use Amy's Artistic Floral out of Hardwick was based on the cost. She said the approximately $500 price for boutonnieres from Amy was more than 50% lower than they have paid before.
She said they are still using Peck's Flower Shop and Bailey House of Floral for other flowers at graduation.
“We love to do business with local vendors,” said Wrend, noting they regularly reach out to businesses in Morristown and the surrounding communities.
But, she pointed out, they also have an obligation to the taxpayers to be cost conscious as well. She said she is proud of the fact they are able to balance quality and cost effectiveness for both large and small purchases.
“All of the businesses and families [in the area] do a lot,” said Wrend.
She said they appreciate the communities’ efforts with a lot of school and child-related activities and the employees and families notice this.
By law, the school district has to put expenditures over $15,000 out to bid, excluding professional services.
Another community project which was questioned was the Lamoille Housing Partnership (LHP)'s Arthurs project. Executive Director Jim Lovinsky said they reach out to local crews to try to solicit local work. He said there are federal guidelines for such projects and contractors need to be meet certain requirements.
About two years ago LHP sponsored a class to help encourage local contractors to be ready for the then upcoming Lamoille View and Arthur’s projects. He said the Lamoille View project was largely done through Mike Isabel's Century Builders, of Morristown. Lovinsky said he encouraged Mike to work on the Arthur’s project as well, but the scale was too large. Lovinsky said while they did settle on a non-local company, that company has hired a lot of local workers for the Arthur’s project. He added local crews like Grimes and Walkers excavation companies have been involved as well.
Concerns were also raised about town led initiatives, like the pavilion being built on the Oxbow and the Adirondack chairs that adorn the downtown. Trish Follert said the contractor hired, the Department of Corrections work crew, has been using several lumber companies, including Morrisville Lumber, to provide materials for the project. Along with cost, she said, they also had to include timing as a factor in determining which company to use because there is a specific deadline to the project. As an example, she pointed out Parker & Stearns, out of Johnson, builds their own trusses so they could provide a quicker turnaround.
Follert said, while the man who builds the Adirondack chairs is from Maine, he comes here to build them using Vermont lumber at a cost that fit their budget. She said she found him at a craft fair here in Vermont and liked his design better than others she had found because they can be folded up.
In the early 1990s, Morristown adopted a policy of accepting a local bid, rather than the lowest bid, providing it is within 10% of the lowest bid. Quality of work and past history also plays a role, as there are no requirements the lowest bid has to be accepted.
Mickey Smith is a member of the Morristown Selectboard.