Community

Merced looking at policies on fairness and the official seal

Merced’s seal.
Merced’s seal.

Merced leaders will discuss policy issues during Monday’s City Council meeting, including questions over who is allowed to use the city’s seal and how the council fairly handles competitive bidding on contracts.

The council meets in open session at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 678 W. 18th St. A closed session begins at 5:30 p.m.

The council voted 5-2 in December to push a decision on the city’s procurement policy for contracts into the new year. Members of the Greater Merced Chamber of Commerce said they had no official stance on the policy but needed time to review it.

Former Mayor Stan Thurston initiated the new process before his term ended. The new policy is supposed to ensure that all members of the council receive the same information during the bidding process, he has said.

I believe it adds another layer of bureaucracy to doing business in the city of Merced. We’re trying to be as business-friendly and welcome as much business as we can.

Councilman Josh Pedrozo

He also wrote an editorial about the policy for the Sun-Star in which he said the policy is based on Fresno’s ordinance “Regulated Communications in City Procurement Process.”

“The ordinance only applies to a prime contractor, subcontractor and/or agent involved in a competitive contract with the city,” he wrote. “The ordinance has no impact on the day-to-day operations of any business in Merced, so there is no reason for the business community to be concerned about this ordinance.”

Businesses bidding on contracts with the city could be punished if they contact individual council members in an attempt to persuade them about their votes, according to the policy.

Thurston came up with the policy after the competitive bidding process awarded the planning contract for Merced’s high-speed rail stop to Mott MacDonald, originally called Hatch Mott MacDonald.

Also on the agenda is a proposed ordinance that would prohibit anyone from using the seal of the city of Merced or any imitation of it unless it’s for official city business, according to records.

After receiving a recommendation on a different consultant from the city’s Planning Commission, the council chose Mott MacDonald. Several members of the council admitted that a representative of the winning team approached them outside of public council meetings.

Councilman Josh Pedrozo has been the most vocal opponent of the policy going back to its initial adoption.

“I believe it adds another layer of bureaucracy to doing business in the city of Merced,” he said in December. “We’re trying to be as business-friendly and welcome as much business as we can.”

The policy needs another vote from the council to become official.

Also on the agenda is a proposed ordinance that would prohibit anyone from using the seal of the city of Merced or any imitation of it unless it’s for official city business, according to records.

City Council meetings are streamed live on the Internet; a link to the meeting and past videos is at www.cityofmerced.org. The meeting is also shown live on Comcast’s Government Channel 96.

Thaddeus Miller: 209-385-2453, @thaddeusmiller

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