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The Observer paper 12/26/14

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The Salem City Council has come up with a novel idea for awarding contracts for goods and services. The council has decided to give preference to local firms. The concept is a good idea and is long overdue.

The Salem council this week approved on a 6-3 vote a local preference rule, which will award contracts to local companies if they come within 5 percent of the lowest bid. The rule is believed to be the first of its kind in the state.

Oregon law requires government entities to accept the lowest bids for goods and services. Exceptions are rare and must be well justified. The law makes sense in terms of making sure the public gets the best and most reasonable deal, but in many cases it rules out local bidders who fall a little short of other companies.

Too often local car dealers, contractors and others — people who will help keep money circulating in the community — have been unsuccessful in winning bids because they've been a little higher than the lowest bid. Local governments' ability to do much about it has been limited unless some extenuating circumstances could be found. A local preference rule levels the playing field between large companies and smaller ones.

Awarding bids for goods and services to local companies makes sense provided the bids are reasonable. Including the stipulation that the local bid be within 5 percent of the lowest provides that guarantee. The 5 percent difference will be more than made up if the money stays in the local community. Care must be taken, of course, to precisely define what is meant by a local company.

Our local jurisdictions should take up the issue and pass similar local preference rules.


How's the ice cream holding out? Going through it a little faster these days?

If it seems like ice cream just doesn't go as far as it once did, you're right. Many companies have switched from half-gallon to 1.75-quart cartons. Some people aren't happy about it, though the concept isn't new to packaging — only to the traditional half-gallon ice cream "brick.'' Soups, candy bars, detergent, even most newspapers, all come in smaller portions than they once did.

Changing the size of containers is one way companies can increase pricing without too much sticker shock. Both Dreyer's and Schwan's have switched to the smaller containers, fearful that they might lose customers if they were to raise prices much above the $5 level.

So if it seems like you're not getting the same number of scoops from the old half-gallon that you once did, check the carton. You're probably not.


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