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Kirby pushes local bidding for Pilot Point EDC grants

Chance Kirby thinks contractors from Pilot Point should have a shot at bidding on jobs that improve businesses in town.

During a meeting of the Pilot Point Economic Development board Tuesday night, Kirby lobbied for requiring applicants for grants from the EDC to obtain at least one bid from a local contractor. Kirby, a member of the EDC board, made the recommendation during a discussion about the grant application requirements.

“I’ve been on [the board] a year and I haven’t see anything come through that a local person couldn’t bid on,” Kirby said, adding that there was not a grant project a local contractor could not do and that Pilot Point EDC has to develop what’s here as well as what’s not here.

Other board members disagreed, however, rejecting a motion by Kirby on a 4-2 vote. Instead, the board adopted language in a 5-1 vote, with Kirby dissenting, that would strongly encourage applicants to seek local bids on their projects.

A committee composed of EDC board members Saundra Lapsley, Jim Porter and Glen Ray and EDC executive director Amanda Davenport was formed last month to look at updating and revising the program’s rules.

“We were concerned there was not enough specificity in what we had existing,” Lapsley said. “We had the one-page application basically, and that was all the guidelines we had to look at in how we go about improving our matching funds grants.”

Davenport found examples from other towns’ programs that were similar to Pilot Point EDC’s, Lapsley said.

“We came up with a compilation of what we decided would be most appropriate for our particular setting,” Lapsley said.

The matching grant program offers money to Pilot Point businesses that make improvements to their buildings.

“Projects should enhance the appearance of the property and serve as a catalyst for additional investments in the property,” the program rules state.

Applicants are required to spend at least $2,500 to qualify. The program funds up to $2,500 for projects’ expenditures that cost up to $14,999.99, and grant funds can be extended up to $5,000 for projects costs exceeding $15,000.

Applicants who receive a grant are required to display a sign indicating they received EDC funding for a portion of the project. The project must be completed within six months of approval from the EDC board.

Among the examples of eligible work include brick repair, painting, demolition, signage, and structural repairs or upgrades.

Kirby asked if the committee discussed whether bids should come from Pilot Point contractors, Lapsley said that was discussed. The committee, she said, “decided to leave that unstated, but it’s certainly something we would look at in evaluating (applicants).”

“We added a statement that said that getting a local bid is encouraged when possible and using a local contractor,” Davenport said.

Applicants are required to acquire two bids in their grand applicatoins.

“That’s all we can do, is encourage them [to seek Pilot Point contractors],” EDC board President Joyce Duesman said. “We can’t force them to.”

Kirby disagreed and said it wasn’t hard to find a contractor in town to make a bid.

“You don’t have to hire them,” he continued.

He added if a bid in town ends up being a low bid, “then we encourage someone to hire someone here that before wouldn’t have been hired.”

After some discussion, Kirby made a motion, seconded by board member Tracy Hammer, that at least one bid be from Pilot Point. The motion failed.

Ray made a motion to approve the document with a change to require to require two bids, with one local bid being “highly encouraged.” His motion passed 5-1.

Ray said he voted against Kirby’s motion because “there may be situations that businesses need to address in a grant application that cannot be met by a Pilot Point contractor.”

“I would hate to deny a business potential assistance from the EDC with a grant solely because they could not supply a bid from someone in Pilot Point,” Ray said in a email. “I feel we should encourage use of local contractors, but mandating it in the EDC grant process could be detrimental to the business owner/ tenant.”

Porter said in an interview that he was pleased with the work the committee did on the program requirements’ revisions. He agreed that Pilot Point bids should be encouraged, not required.

“We know that not all bids can come from Pilot Point,” he said. “There are certain contractors that aren’t here that can bid on projects.”

The EDC, he said, supports using local contractors when they are available.

Explaining her vote in an email, Lapsley said: “While I believe that everyone benefits by supporting our local businesses, I think as I stated in the meeting that grant seekers should have the freedom to decide which contractors they wish to use.

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