SALT LAKE CITY -- Is it leveling the field or discrimination?
When businesses bid for a contract or project with Salt Lake County, preference will now be given to woman-owned or minority-owned businesses.
Three Salt Lake Council members opposed the change, including Aimee Winder Newton.
As a female and small business owner, she says this type of preferential treatment sends the wrong message.
When applying for projects or contracts with Salt lake County, or bidding on a particular service, the council agrees it should be a fair process.
"We take a low bid from a qualified bidder," Salt Lake Councilman at Large, Jim Bradley said.
But there`s a disagreement over "who" should be given preferential treatment.
This week, the council approved a policy where women and minority business owners are given what councilman Jim Bradley calls, a "slight advantage."
If bids come in and a minority or woman-owned businesses with 104 percent of the low price, they can be considered for these additional points.
Bradley says it`s not a guarantee they`re going to get the job, but it makes them more competitive.
"We`re well within our rights to provide that benefit," Bradley said. "We do it in other areas, for instance we provide a veteran benefit. If you`re a veteran and you own a business, you get points."
"I was very concerned about it," Councilwoman Newton said.
She told Fox 13 she finds the new policy troubling.
"I`m a small business owner and I don`t need my government to give me any sort of advantage over somebody else just because of my gender," Newton said.
When the council first considered the change in January to conform with federal guidelines, Newton voted in favor of "soliciting these groups."
"I think that there are things that we can do to help promote women and minority businesses to make sure they`re able to get loans."
But she says she changed course when the proposal clearly showed preferential treatment based on skin color or gender.
"I`m a big proponent that business owners should earn their business with the county based on merits of providing great service for the lowest price," Newton said.
Bradley says the council will continue to look at ways to help businesses thrive while protecting the interests of all Salt Lake County residents.