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Local News

Policy aimed at awarding state contracts to veterans with disabilities isn’t working, report says

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April Corbin Girnus, Nevada Current
March 27, 2024

Nevada lawmakers may reconsider the state’s policy on preferential bidding for veterans with disabilities, following reports that the current criteria are resulting in no contracts being awarded.

In 2023, the Nevada State Public Works Division awarded 32 contracts subject to preferential bidding for veterans with service-connected disabilities, administrators told lawmakers on the Legislative Committee on Senior Citizens, Veterans and Adults With Special Needs this week. But no qualified veterans submitted bids for any of the contracts.

Those contracts were worth around $2 million combined.

To be considered for preferential bidding by the state, veterans must pre-qualify their locally owned business with the Public Works Division of the Nevada Department of Administration  — a process administrators described as simple and involving a one-page application.

Currently, just four veteran contractors are prequalified.

Preferential bidding only applies to public works contracts under $250,000. For contracts less than $100,000, veterans preference is given for any percentage of disability. For contracts between $100,000 and $250,000, preferential bidding is given only to veterans considered 50% or more disabled. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs assigns disability ratings.

Public Works Deputy Administrator Brian Wacker noted that the majority of projects undertaken by the division are above the $250,000 threshold. In 2023, for example, public works awarded 112 contracts overall.

Wacker said he is aware of veteran-owned businesses that have secured larger contracts that were not subject to preferential bidding for veterans. One of the four pre-qualified veteran-owned businesses is approved for projects up to $5 million, he noted.

“We do see them on some of our other projects,” he said. “It’s just (that) the veterans’ preference doesn’t apply to those bids.”

Public Works Administrator Will Lewis told lawmakers he had “no preconceived conceptions” about how to address the lack of participation in the preferential bidding process but had “a willing and open attitude” for ideas.

“We have a contractor that is only licensed to pour cement, to pour concrete. Unfortunately, we don’t put out concrete projects on public works,” said Lewis. “We know there is an alignment issue between what we put out and what the contracting community is being licensed for.”

He added, “Obviously we’d like to bridge that gap moving forward so that we can be more inclusive.”

Assemblyman Ken Gray, R-Dayton, suggested the legislative committee consider adjusting the thresholds for when preferential bidding applies. The dollar amounts are set in statute.

“They seem extremely low in this day and age,” said Gray. “You’d have a hard time remodeling a public restroom these days for less than $250,000.”

Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: info@nevadacurrent.com. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Nevada Current under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.