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Mitchell to purchase janitorial supplies through state bid

The city of Mitchell intends to purchase janitorial supplies through a state contract rather than a local company, and one business owner suspects the decision is personal.

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The city of Mitchell intends to purchase janitorial supplies through a state contract rather than a local company, and one business owner suspects the decision is personal.

Mayor Jerry Toomey ordered city department heads to purchase all janitorial supplies through a state contract price rather than locally based Jones Supply as of Jan. 26, according to a letter filed in the upcoming City Council agenda packet. And while he declined to publicly specify the possible reasons for the decision on Friday, owner Tim Jones speculated the reason for Toomey's decision was not a simply a cost-saving measure for the city.

"We're in the fourth generation working that corner, and I feel like I'm being threatened for a different reason," Jones told The Daily Republic, adding that he plans to discuss the matter further at Monday night's meeting.

Toomey, however, said the decision was based "off of cash considerations and most definitely not based on a personal disagreement."

Jones will have the opportunity to "meet" or "beat" the state contract, according to an email filed in the council's agenda packet, at which samples of products will be "evaluated" by the mayor and a department head. But Jones doesn't expect to attempt to match the state bid out of fairness to his other customers.

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A discussion regarding Toomey's decision will be held during Monday night's City Council meeting, which is slated to begin at 6:15 p.m., but the discussion to shift away from Jones Supply has been on the backburner since October 2016.

Last year, Toomey requested the city award a three-year contract to Sioux Falls-based JCL Solutions for paper products and cleaning supplies, but the bid award was nixed by the City Council after Jones expressed concerns with JCL's bid on the 199 included items.

"No company could have all what's on this list," Jones said Friday.

A few months later, Toomey ordered department heads to stop purchasing from Jones Supply - which received $49,523.92 from the city in 2016 according to the city of Mitchell. Jones said he believes January's order from Toomey was made for personal and political reasons.

Jones Supply, located a short walk from City Hall and the Corn Palace on Mitchell's Main Street, had been working with the city since at least 1980, Jones said. And, he said, the family-owned business' proximity to city offices is beneficial for Mitchell.

"I'm seven days a week with them," Jones said. "They call me on a Sunday, I come."

Of the six bidders in the state contract, three are based in Sioux Falls, one operates out of Rapid City, and two more are managed from out-of-state.

In Toomey's letter, he said a vendor cannot leave pricing or samples with any department head or city employee in the event a firm attempts to match the state contract bids. Instead, pricing and product samples must be delivered to the mayor's office. According to the bid tabulation filed in an October City Council agenda packet for janitorial and cleaning supplies, that suggests items like toilet paper, trash bags, sponges, feminine care products, urinal screens, mosquito repellant and air fresheners would need to pass the mayor's inspection.

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According to the letter, "All pricing and product samples will be delivered to the Mayor's office."

Toomey's letter also said "No employee needs to feel that they are being intimidated, harassed, or threatened by any vendor."

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