Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Tuesday members of the Richland County Council defended their decision to hire an out of state firm to oversee penny tax funded projects despite having a local firm that scored hired on an internal evaluation.
ICA is the firm that was selected to oversee the projects and they are set to receive 50 million dollars from the county within the next five years.
The Penny tax is set to bring Richland County more than 1 billion dollars in the next 22 years and would improve roads and public transportation for the county.
When the tax was up for a vote, lawmakers told citizens that it would support local businesses and create local jobs.
Recently council voted 7-4 selecting an out of state based firm. The selection process was comprised of an application, interview and an internal evaluation.
Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson voted for ICA despite scoring lower than an in state firm.
"Well sometimes the highest scorer does not always bring the right results and so looking at them they have the capacity to grow. What they showed me is they might not have had it all but they were willing to grow and to partner and to me that was very important," said Dickerson.
In 2010 ICA bought out Florence and Hutcheson, an engineering firm that was in Columbia for 27 years.
Currently the ICA office in Columbia has 30 employees and regional manager David Beaty says that the money will stay local despite their headquarters being in Tennessee.
Councilman Jim Manning says he weighed all the elements of the applicants not just the evaluation score.
"No matter which company we picked there were local companies as part of their team, the other part is that many of the teams while they might have a parent company that was not in the Columbia area, they had local offices which had the folks that live and work locally that will be doing the work," said Manning.
ICA says they have teamed up with six other firms that have headquarters out of state but have local offices.
Councilman Paul Livingston is the chair of the penny tax committee for council and he says ICA seemed like the best fit for the job.
"It wasn't just simply looking at the prime firm, see when folks are talking about something local you are talking about the prime firm, the prime firm has several other firms and several of the other firms with the prime firm that was selected also has local individuals too," said Livingston.
Council members Washington, Malinowski and Pearce also voted for ICA but did not want to comment because there are pending legal talks and negotiations.