Isanti moves forward with veteran’s preference program

The Isanti City Council is moving forward to develop a veteran’s preference program for large contracts with the city.

During the Sept. 17 council meeting, Isanti Mayor George Wimmer explained he is looking at developing a veteran’s preference program that would give veterans a 3 percent preference for contracts more than $100,000.

Isanti Mayor George Wimmer (right) welcomed new Cambridge-Isanti Superintendent Dr. Ray Queener to the Sept. 17 City Council meeting and presented him with a few small gifts from the city. Wimmer noted Queener has done a nice job of communicating with the city of Isanti since he began in his superintendent position. Photo by Rachel Kytonen

Isanti Mayor George Wimmer (right) welcomed new Cambridge-Isanti Superintendent Dr. Ray Queener to the Sept. 17 City Council meeting and presented him with a few small gifts from the city. Wimmer noted Queener has done a nice job of communicating with the city of Isanti since he began in his superintendent position. Photo by Rachel Kytonen

Under the program, qualifying businesses owned by employing veterans will be awarded a 3 percent bid preference in calculating the lowest responsible bidder for awarding city contracts more than $100,000.

“One of the criteria for this that would still be taken into consideration is the need to meet city engineering standards,” Wimmer said.

Wimmer said most of the larger contracts in the city range between 10-15 percent between the high and low bids.

Following discussion, the council approved a motion to move forward with the development of the veteran’s preference program for the city of Isanti.

Wimmer noted, if enacted by the council at a future meeting, the city of Isanti would be the first city in the state of Minnesota to adopt the program.

Alan Duff, with Duff Consulting, presented information to the council regarding the veteran’s preference program. Duff explained, due to recent legislation, cities can now adopt the program under state statute effective July 1.

He said legislation for the program was enacted for Minnesota counties in 2012, with Chisago County being the first county to adopt the program in June 2012.

Duff, who is a retired Army major, said during presentations and in speaking with veterans, he hears about problems with unemployment, under employment, lost businesses, transitions during deployment and discrimination.

Duff explained the Department of Veteran Affairs verifies and certifies veteran-owned businesses. A listing of veteran-owned firms is available at www.vip.vetbiz.gov, with Duff noting there are currently 146 veteran-owned businesses in the state. He said firms get reverified as being a veteran-owned business every two years.

Duff explained advantages for the city to adopt a veteran’s preference program include:

• Value – Help remedy systematic problems.

• Support those protecting our nation.

• Increase exposure and opportunity for contractors to work with the city of Isanti.

• Increase amount of bids and find new bidders to bring to the table.

Wimmer feels the $100,000 bid amount is a good place to start.

“Using the $100,000 mark allows us to get into this program in a very manageable way,” Wimmer said. “And since the VA verifies veteran-owned businesses, we wouldn’t have to worry (about) any work associated with that process.”

Duff said about half of the current veteran-owned businesses in the state could bid on $100,000 jobs.

“I think the $100,000 is a good place to start and we can always go back and tweak it and look at it at a later date,” Council Member Sue Larson said. “But I think the 3 percent preference is a good place to start. I think this is something we can do for our veterans. Our veterans come back to real struggles. All across the U.S., people are looking at ways to enhance the lives of our veterans.

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