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Car dealer, county judge disagree over local preference

El Paso County commissioners will soon be discussing bids for a new fleet of Sheriff’s Department vehicles, and the price could be higher than a previous contract that was offered because the original bidder has decided to pull out of the race.

In November, commissioners were expected to accept a $2,041,753 bid for more than 80 vehicles from Caldwell Country Ford. According to the documents made available before that meeting, several county employees had approved the contract.

Instead, a last-second change allowed for a second bidding process.

County commissioners decided to rebid the process with a local preference approach. The change came after an employee of Casa Ford arrived in commissioners court to complain that the county was preparing to make a deal with an out-of-town business.

After listening to the comments, commissioners went back and determined that new Texas legislation allowed them to offer a local preference as long as the price was within 3 percent of the low bid.

“It’s not worth the effort to send the bid back in,” said Avery Knapp of Caldwell Country Ford. “It’s sort of a mini-protest.”

Knapp said it’d be easy to undercut his prices without actually being cheaper at this point. According to him, the county has opened itself up to a bad precedent because it discourages businesses like his, essentially allowing for less competition and higher prices.

“I wish we had adopted the local policy far in advance of this bid, but even if we did it may have been in the middle of another bid,” said County Judge Veronica Escobar, telling ABC-7 she didn’t think the late decision was ideal but necessary to protect the county.

Escobar said local preference allows the county to ensure business, and jobs, stay in El Paso.

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