Jackson County is taking steps to help businesses owned by women and minorities have a better shot at winning county business.

The county has a policy on inclusiveness that dates to 1983, but some county legislators have expressed frustration that too often on large county projects no women-owned or minority-owned businesses bid. They have worked for months on a new policy and held a hearing on the issue earlier this year.

“There was a lot of support for strengthening the county’s current program,” consultant Colette Holt to county legislators on Monday.

She told legislators that the federal courts are generally, in her words, hostile to this type of program so the county needs to have data to clearly demonstrate a problem with specific harms and then tailor its program to those issues. The county plans to track such information over the next few years.

In the mean time, the county is taking some interim steps. As officials described it, many of the barriers relate to the companies’ size. Smaller companies can have trouble with having enough working capital, and small contractors for example sometimes struggle with surety bonds. The county plans to review those requirements.

The county also might break up large contracts into smaller ones, potentially giving smaller companies a chance to land projects of a size they can handle.

Legislator Bob Spence, R-Lee’s Summit, asked if the county was looking at a policy under which a women-owned or minority-owned business would get extra consideration – more points in evaluation – in contracting.

“No, they don’t, and I think it’s important to note this isn’t a quota system. ... They’re in the same competitive position as any other bidder,” said Holt.

The city of Kansas City and the Kansas City Area Transit Authority are working on similar efforts alongside the county. Holt is working on a similar study for the state of Missouri.

Also Monday:

• Legislators forwarded three names to Gov. Jay Nixon for a seat on the Jackson County Sports Authority – but the current member in that seat is not among them. Gerry Winship of Lee’s Summit is chairman of the authority, which oversees operations of the Truman Sports Complex. The county owns Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums and leases them to the Chiefs and Royals.

Legislator Dennis Waits, D-Independence, nominated Winship, but Winship failed to get as many votes among the nine legislators as three others: Gregory Kratofil of Kansas City, Ron Freeman of Grandview and Paula Derks of Lee’s Summit. It’s a Republican seat on the Sports Authority. Nixon will appoint one of the three.

• Legislators got an outside auditor’s review of the county’s 2013 comprehensive annual financial report. Shelly Stromp of MPMG said her firm found no material weaknesses in the audit.