Vendors interested in doing business with Nassau County will no longer be required to pay an annual registration fee officials said has stifled competition and shut out small-business owners.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat, signed on Wednesday legislation that eliminated the $125 vendor fee, doing away with the cost imposed since 2014.
At a news conference in Mineola, she also announced a new county website that allows businesses to view and submit paperwork electronically.
“The elimination of this fee and the new county vendor portal website are consistent with my administration’s ongoing efforts to make the county’s procurement process more transparent, more fair, more competitive and more inclusive, especially for businesses that have not had easy access to county government,” Curran said.
Since taking office in January, she has made a series of changes to procurement policies and the contracting process she said will promote transparency and make the county more business-friendly.
Nassau’s procurement system came under scrutiny after the 2015 arrests of then-State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and his son, Adam.
Dean and Adam Skelos were convicted on federal corruption charges, including that Dean Skelos improperly influenced the awarding of a Nassau County contract to a company where his son worked. Their convictions were overturned, but both were retried and convicted. The Skeloses are scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 24.
Each year, Nassau awards about $700 million worth of services, said John Chiara, deputy county executive for procurement. About 70 percent of the purchase orders are for less than $10,000.
Under the old law, a business owner who wanted to bid on a county contract worth at least $1,000 had to shell out the $125 fee, or 12.5 percent of the contract’s value, just for the chance to participate in the bidding process.
The fee, Curran said, was a barrier to entry for small-business owners, particularly minority- and women-owned enterprises.
"To waive the fee, it can help tremendously because now it’s almost like a fair playing field across the board, so everybody can compete,” said Shelton Munlin, co-owner of SJR Security Consultants, which provides security to, among others, construction sites, schools and private homes. The company, based in Merrick, has 25 to 30 employees.
The move by Curran and the legislators, Munlin said, will allow more small-business owners to bid on county contracts.
“I know some people may say $125 seems small, but when you’re a small-business owner you have a million other different responsibilities to take care of," he said. "That $125 can make a difference.”
The new website will cut down the time it takes to submit the required paperwork from a week or more to a matter of hours, said his wife, Raisa Munlin, co-owner of the consulting firm.
"It will eliminate the paper application, which was cumbersome and time-consuming,” she said. “So to be able to do it on a computer is going to streamline the process and make it so much easier.”