BSSA Management Team Supported by Williams; City Bid Process Hints Overhaul

by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter
BSSA Management Team Supported by Williams;  City Bid Process Hints Overhaul

HUNTINGTON, WV (HNN) – Huntington City Council essentially has bids and bonds on their plate, including a financial report from the Big Sandy Superstore Arena.

Although a seating bid is on council’s agenda, Council Finance Chairman Steve Williams has no complaints with BSSA management. “

“I have no complaints about the arena, but I’m not happy with contract procedures,” Williams said. He interprets the March 2011 BSSA financial report as indicating a possibility that the city subsidy could be less than anticipated.

Back on March 31, Williams told the Finance Committee, “I do not have absolute trust and faith in our bid process.” At that meeting he stated that “bid specification” disputes have become the rule rather than the exception.

Distancing himself from bids versus civic center operations, Williams praised the SMG Arena team for catering the Big Green Scholarship Dinner.

“They came in and did a superb job. It was a turnaround deal with everything taken care of,” Williams explained, adding, the turnout was the second largest (behind the previous one at which Randy, Byron and Chad were guests). We made more money on this one than last year,” when the event was held on campus.

He liked the leadership shown “ in taking to potential clients and showing they can accomplish what they want to accomplish at the venue.”



Contract award procedures have come before the Finance Committee and Council with increasing regularity. A second-look at police radio bids stirred bidder competition and eventually the Huntington Police Department, Barboursville Police Department, and Cabell County Sheriff’s Department allowed a compromise that resulted in purchase of both Motorola and Kenwood radios.

Since that oversight, complaints --- some small, some large --- have encompassed several sealed bid procedures. Departments have asked to disregard the apparent low bid in favor of another one deemed more cost effective.

Landfill contracts for dumping Huntington’s garbage entered numbers roulette, when it came before council.  Bringing the competing bidders brought more perplexity with numbers. The issue: The new low bidder is five miles further from the city (ten miles round trip) , so how are cost variables for distance (fuel, repairs, labor) incorporated?

Kessick objected to the metal scraping metal understructure. He told the committee that the seats installed when the arena was built were Hussey and similar to the one’s bid for replacement. However, the arena has had difficulties with the seats. Kessick preferred the Irwin construction.

But, Timothy B. Hussey, chief executive officer and president, Hussey Seating Company came to the meeting with two additional representatives. Representatives from Irwin, though invited, said they could not make it to the city before 10 p.m.

“Our product is the original product in BSSA from 36 years ago. The product got into trouble early on,” Hussey said, alluding to improper care and maintenance.”

Hussey complained that the specifications for the bid appeared to be “proprietary” around “the Irwin product.” However, he told council member Nate Randolph his company did not file a complaint at the time of the bid regarding the shifted specs.

“It was our feel we would get fair treatment,” Hussey, a sixth generation owner stated.

He noted the company is often close in bid amounts but Huntington is unusual in that they have an extremely low bid versus the Irwin bid. He termed the company’s products a “Ford versus Chevrolet” comparison with Huntington “writing specifications around the Ford, where the Chevy will do the job.”

The CEO had asked that BSSA representatives visit a recent Hussey equipped facility in North Carolina. Neither Site or Kessick did so.

“We made it clear what we wanted,” Sites told the committee.

“What we were told was not what was in the bid,” responded Mr. Hussey. “We were not treated rightly and have not had straight answers in the last 30 days.”

Under the bids submitted, Irwin offered a two year warranty; Hussey five years, Mr. Hussey verbally offered a 10 year warranty and a service agreement to ensure the seats remained operable during the 20 year life of the bond.

Nate Randolph pondered why no protest for irregularities were filed prior to the opening.

Randolph indicated that “there are times you learn by doing,” suggesting the possibility of a re-bid with tightened up engineering specifications, but the city has previously struggled with “bids” and amended bid, holding a re-bid could open a Pandora’s box of precedent.

“I don’t have enough information to render a judgment,” Randolph said. Sandra Clements agreed with Randolph on not having enough data to make an informed decision.

And, Jim Insco question the urgent time frame --- “you want to do this [in the summer] when there’s not stuff in the arena,” he stated referring to Sipe’s desire to having a second reading by May 11 on the purchase which comes from Recovery Zone bonds.

“I’m distressed,” Williams said referring to the tension from the final approval date. “What if we [as a council] say no?” {The bids had come back a month ago, but were only now brought to council]

He determined, “this [bid spec confusion] has become the rule rather than the exception… [for a] $1.5 million dollar difference every “I” should be dotted, every “T” should be crossed.”

The decision on BSSA upgrades has significance , as the arena draws people to Huntington. Just as Williams spoke of how Louisville has “the texture of facilities and architecture” combined with the nearby Ohio River “has a feel” for what can be done in Huntington with the MU Fine Arts addition, the BSSA will be a component for concerts, events, and catered dinners.

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