Turner Construction. (Emily Files)

Turner Construction. (Emily Files)

Currently, Haines’ construction companies are given local bidder preference on a job if they’re within three percent of the lowest, outside bid. The borough’s finance committee voted last week to recommend changes to the current system. If adopted by the assembly, the new structure could be beneficial to local companies when it comes to smaller jobs.

The recommendation is a combination of a flat-rate and tiered bid system. Committee member Tresham Gregg made the motion to recommend increasing the local bidder preference to seven percent up to $1 million. Anything over that, and no preference would be given to local companies. That means that the cheapest bid wins the job, local or not, if the job is over $1 million. Here’s committee member Diana Lapham.

“It keeps it simple and it might make our local bidders a lot more competitive.”

Local contractors submitted a petition to the assembly back in September asking for a change. The group, which includes 14 companies, asked that the assembly consider upping the margin from three to five percent across the board, like they do in Skagway. After discussion last week, the committee noted that five percent on a multi-million-dollar job could result in a significant loss for the borough so they compromised on seven percent up to $1 million. The majority of the jobs awarded to local companies in recent years have been under that amount anyway. And the committee determined that the difference between three and five percent isn’t big enough to garner more local companies on smaller jobs.

“But with seven percent, or maybe even 10 percent, it would really help some of those smaller contracts go to local companies, without having to give up too much value of a big project,”said Jila Stewart, the borough’s Chief Financial Officer, who supported the committee’s seven-percent idea.

She said most communities in Southeast use a tiered system because it offers a little more flexibility. So, local bidder preference is given, but only up to a certain amount.

The recommendation will go to the assembly at a future meeting to be determined.

The finance committee also voted to recommend two budget amendments for the tourism department, which will come up at this week’s assembly meeting. The first request was to reappropriate money taken out of the tourism budget and put into economic development. Tourism director Leslie Ross asked for that $25,000 back, plus $6,000 for training and website work.

“Part of my advertising budget, if you compare it to FY15 was cut significantly and a large portion that was taken out of online marketing, was put into economic development,” said Ross. “There was an overall marketing plan that Bill Mandeville had that’s not being done now.”

Former economic development director Mandeville resigned last spring and the position is vacant.

Ross said online promotion is likely the most important part of her marketing plan because the majority of travel is booked online. Not to mention online travel research and reviews.

The second tourism request was for $32,500 for an audit of the borough’s online marketing presence. The study would help determine how well the current online strategy to lure tourists to Haines is working.

“So what they would be looking at is our search engine works, how we come up on search engines for different things, not just Haines but heliskiing, cruise ships and they’ll go through everything that is part of our marketing plan and see where we come up,” said Ross.

Both of the tourism recommendations will be introduced at Tuesday’s assembly meeting.