Town to review purchasing policy – wants businesses to be more proactive in advising what they offer

by Colin Smith

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How to improve local sourcing of goods and services by the Town of Morinville was featured in the discussion of a report on the town purchasing policy at Tuesday’s council meeting.

It turns out that one of the ways that can happen is if Morinville businesses are more proactive in bringing what they have to offer to the notice of the town administration.

The report was presented by Financial Services Manager Travis Nosko in response to a council request from Councillor Scott Richardson that the purchasing policy be brought forward for review.

This is in advance of a mandated renewal of the policy, adopted in 2019, to take place before the end of the year.

The purchasing policy is intended to provide the administration with a guide to what Council expects in terms of purchasing goods and services for Morinville, the report states.

It is focused on ensuring Morinville procurement achieves the best possible value when purchasing while prioritizing local businesses where possible and within established parameters.

Guiding principles of the policy are ethical behaviour and conduct, open and effective competition, best value acquisition and a focus on local procurement.

Nosko pointed out that Morinville’s purchases of goods and services, like those of other Alberta municipalities, take place within a framework of provincial, national and international free trade agreements.

Through these agreements, municipalities can make a point of buying locally up to certain price thresholds, beyond which they can’t discriminate.

Under the New West Trade Partnership Agreement, which links Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan and is the most restrictive, the thresholds are $75,000 for goods, $75,000 for services and $200,000 for construction.

Below those thresholds, the preference is for purchasing from local businesses, which the administration takes to mean businesses from neighbouring regional municipalities and Alexander First Nation, as well as those in the town itself.

Local businesses are given purchasing priority as long as the price does not exceed competitors’ bids by more than the greater of 10 per cent or $3,750, and meets other expectations of quality and timeliness.

While priority is given to local vendors on construction contracts under the $200,000 trade agreement threshold if prices do not exceed 10 per cent or $10,000 in variance from competitors.

A minimum of three quotes are sought for purchases between $5,000 and the trade agreement thresholds and may be for those under $5,000, some sole-source purchasing is done under that level.

Councillor Scott Richardson asked how the administration decides on which local businesses to deliver goods and services or provide cost estimates.

“Currently, a lot of businesses I’ve found don’t feel they have that opportunity,” he said. “It’s all being done through connections.”

Nosko said the administration uses a local directory drawn up based on business license information.

“We encourage businesses to give us updates as they take on new ventures or promote new services that we don’t know about, so we can update that directory and be sure we have that information available,” he said. “Perhaps there are other activities we can undertake so we know what’s out there locally before we venture out.”

Deputy Mayor Ray White moved that the purchasing policy report be accepted as information.

“I think it’s great information, and I think it’s good to look at these policies and learn from them and move forward,” said Mayor Simon Boersma.

“I do think businesses have to come forward with the goods and services they can provide for the Town of Morinville,” said Richardson. “In the future, if we have a better inventory, we’ll be able to make better purchases in the community.

Concluded White, “I think it’s healthy to look at policies as they evolve, and this one has evolved. Bringing it forward to have a discussion makes sense to me.”

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