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School spending explained

February 28, 2011 in News

By GREG FLADGE
Casper Journal

A confluence of conflicting politics, a busted economy and perhaps just bad luck left many local companies on the sidelines in Casper’s recent school construction bonanza.

Natrona County School District officials say the Wyoming School Facilities Commission (SFC) emphasis on experience and qualifications in selecting architects and construction managers sometimes gives a leg up to regional and national companies competing against smaller Wyoming firms.

“They told us this is the process, this is state money, it’s not local taxes and the legislature’s primary interest is…looking for efficiency in terms of costs, and getting bang for the buck,” said School Board Member Donn McCall. “I feel our local Wyoming contractors meet that standard, but as the result of going to a qualification based standard, and you have to follow the law, the rubric is very objective. You can’t just say, “I know this firm and I like the work they did.”

McCall also noted many of the regulations giving Wyoming firms a preference on state contracts have been eliminated over the years in an effort to make it easier for new businesses to come to Wyoming. While professional services, such as architectural or engineering, are not usually selected on a low bid basis, the preference law does apply to most other areas of a project.

“I have long had concerns,” McCall said about the weakening of the preference laws, noting as a lawyer he has handled cases challenging the legitimacy of companies claiming in-state status. “ A firm comes in and wants to qualify as a resident contractor…and today it’s really just a checklist, it’s really not meaningful in providing protections and providing a level playing field. “

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