Friday, February 22, 2008

On the Square, On the Level?

According to a local newspaper account, the current reconstruction of the Fayetteville square is at least a $920,000 project. Some merchants on the square have agreed to make voluntary contributions to help pay for improvements, so the figure might be higher. The Advertising and Promotion Commission approved $460,000 from the HMR tax fund last February, and someone at "the city agreed to match that amount" with other city tax dollars. Now there appears to be a question of who is paying how much for what, and the newspaper reporter doesn't seem to be able to find out that information, either.

The city Street Committee approved street and sidewalk improvements that were deemed necessary for public safety, but whoever is in charge is doing much more than that. One item in question is a
$165,000 no-bid contract to King Electric that the staff brought before the City Council this week. Why did this not go out for bids to allow other responsible contractors to submit a lower bid and save the taxpayers some money? The city staff knew they would be needing electrical work for quite some time, so what is the rush now to award $165,000 to one company without taking bids?

Mayor Dan Coody admitted that the city could have taken bids on the electrical work but he preferred awarding the $165,000 to the company without asking for competitive bids from other local contractors. Allowing other businesses to submit bids would have been “exceptionally more time-consuming and much more expensive,” he said. Somehow he figured that asking for the lowest responsible bidders would have added six months to the project and would have increased the cost by $50,000.

That is nonsense, Dan. We have an open bidding process to save the taxpayers money instead of throwing no-bid bonanzas to a selected favored business. The bidding process wouldn't add six months to the project if bids had been requested in a timely manner. There is seldom any reason not to take bids on a project that involves spending this much of the taxpayers money, whether it is electrical work or a monopoly ambulance service. It is just good business sense to select the lowest responsible bidder.

Ward 4
Alderman Lioneld Jordan thinks so, too. He has requested a report from the staff about the no bid contract and the square project at the upcoming agenda session next Tuesday. “I just need a little more information on that because it’s a $165,000 no-bid contract; I just want to know who’s paying for what," he said. “What I’m trying to do is do my due diligence as an alderman and make sure we’re properly managing the taxpayers’ money, or I am anyway. I don’t know about anybody else."

Major props for Alderman Jordan. It is refreshing to see a public official trying to manage a budget wisely and save the taxpayers' money. It is also good to see an elected city official with the diligence to take time to do a project right and with the courage to do the right thing.

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