Back to square one on procurement ordinance

Pat Long on March 5, 2024. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

MANCHESTER, N.H. – A proposed ordinance change for prequalification of bidders associated with city construction contracts was defeated during Tuesday’s Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BMA) meeting, although it may be coming back soon in a slightly altered form.

The ordinance, which would have added additional criteria to contactors seeking to submit proposals for municipal construction projects, was enrolled and ordained as a new ordinance in December. However, with the inauguration of a new board in January, the ordinance was reconsidered and then received a negative committee recommendation last month.

Supporters of the ordinance stated that its provisions, such as requiring bidders to properly classify their workers, follow OSHA guidelines among other provisions, stated that it would protect the city from potential legal liability from unscrupulous businesses. Opponents of the measure felt that it was an overburdensome regulatory measure that would scare away potential bidders, limiting the number of options that the city would receive during the bidding process.

Department of Public Works Director Tim Clougherty said on Tuesday that the proposed ordinance had been thoroughly reviewed by city department heads and served as a starting point for proposals, making it appropriately general enough most of the time, but allowing flexibility if departments needed more specific requirements on requests for proposals.

Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long took the item off the board’s consent agenda, asking that the board reconsider the recommendation to receive and file the item given correspondence from the New Hampshire/Vermont Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors (NH/VT ABC) that slightly modified version of the ordinance could be amenable to both contractors and workers, focusing on reducing vagueness in the ordinance’s language.

BMA Chairman Joseph Kelly Levasseur recommended that the item return to committee to further review the amendment. Long replied that allowing the changes to be reviewed was not inappropriate, but the Aldermen already had enough information on the topic and a return to committee was not needed.

A motion by Long to approve the ordinance with amendments reflecting the NH/VT ABC ideas was defeated in a 7-7 tie, following a tiebreaking “no” vote from Manchester Mayor Jay Ruais. Levasseur was joined in opposition to the motion by Ward 1 Alderman Chris Morgan, Ward 6 Alderman Crissy Kantor, Ward 7 Alderman Ross Terrio, Ward 8 Alderman Ed Sapienza, Ward 11 Alderman Norm Vincent and Ward 12 Alderman Kelly Thomas.

Following the vote, Ruais indicated that he would be amenable to mediating between all parties to develop a reworded ordinance, also confirming to Long that the matter could be revisited as long as it was not identical in substance to the defeated measure.