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Changes to contract bid process discussed at Commissioners' retreat
Goals for the year listed

Commissioners reviewed operational goals for the coming year during a second retreat Thursday at the JP Carr center, including revising the contract procurement process, opening the JP Carr gymnasium more to the community, and incentives to encourage first responders to live in Rockdale.

Each commissioner presented their list of goals, and Chairman Richard Oden presented a framework of goal categories. But Commissioner Oz Nesbitt pointed out that communication was important to making every goal work.

“When you talk communication, that goes in every category that’s up there,” said Nesbitt. Making sure he and Commissioner JaNice Van Ness were kept informed of what the Chairman was working on was key, he said. “At some point in the near future, this body will be making the decision whether we’ll go back to the normal form of Chief of Staff or whether we’ll explore some other options. That is going to be a major part of that clear communication.”

The chairman outlined eight categories of goals: Performance productivity, teambuilding and communication, financial/fiscal management, youth development, regional/state relationship building, strategic planning and goal setting, restoring/beautifying neighborhoods, Rockdale works – job training and job creation in Rockdale.

Nesbitt and Van Ness listed their own goals that were assigned to those categories.

Van Ness proposed giving Rockdale-based companies a small advantage of perhaps five additional points in the contract review process. “Something that says we value our community, and to shop local.”

Oden said the county was working on a tweak of the contract process that would be coming to the commissioners as draft legislation in about six to eight weeks. 

“We want to encourage mentoring-protégé programs,” Oden said. This would encourage major contractors and big companies to give some business or help to smaller companies that would not normally be able to come to the table for large county contracts. 

The commissioners discussed how state and federal contracts have provisions for encouraging minority-owned and women-owned businesses.

Van Ness said she did not want to see favor given for contracts because of race or gender.

“We’ve talked about the issues with perceptions,” said Van Ness. “Caucasians in this community are less than 50 percent. If you talk about minority, maybe we need to revisit that.”

Nesbitt echoed the thought. “When we start talking about the new minority, there is a new minority,” he said. “Let’s talk about our county. As it continues to evolve and change, the majority is going to be African Americans and Hispanics.”

Oden said “There has been disparity.” But there would need to be a disparity study done to see if any one person or group’s companies have not been able to be a part of the process, he said.

Van Ness said that streamlining the county’s contract application process would do more to encourage competition by small businesses than setting aside a percentage of the contracts. 

“The barrier… is your application. That application is so intimidating to a small company,” she said. “I’d like to see a streamlined process so more people are able to fill out the documents so you don't have to have a Master’s to figure it out.” 

Van Ness continued, “There’s a lot of people that don't want to work with Rockdale County at all because of the history of the bidding process… I think we’re have to restore people’s faith that we’re going to do what we say we’re going to do when they take the time to make contracts.”

This was the first she was hearing about possible changes to the contract procurement applications, said Van Ness. She pointed to that as an example of a lack of communication with the Post 1 and Post 2 commissioners. 

“When you say in 6-8 weeks you'll see it, like it's a big Christmas present, we don't need that much excitement about a piece of legislation… You can get all the credit for it. I don't care about the credit. Let us help. We want to help,” she said. Involving the Post 1 and Post 2 commissioners earlier in the process would save time and money by cutting down on the time the county attorney spent on a piece of legislation, she said. 

Another project that the commissioners discussed was opening the JP Carr gymnasium for perhaps two nights a week for youth in the community.

Van Ness suggested finding a reliable community volunteer to open the facility during that time. “We don't have the money to pay somebody right now. But I think it's very important to get the community buy in.”

Oden pointed out the Boys 2 Men of Honor group already opened the gym for youth during Friday nights and paid the county to use the facility. “I do like the fact that if we can talk about expanding the hours,” he said. Van Ness suggested allowing the group to use the gym for free.

Other suggestions and goals included giving first responders a bonus for being a local resident, getting more participation from first responders to health and wellness programs, and organizing a county-wide yard sale day to tie in with Earth Day.

The commissioners agreed holding informal meetings was conducive to dialogue and discussed holding work sessions outside of the formal BOC meeting room at 901 Main Street. They supported the idea of having another retreat date to continue the dialogue.