Council Has Issues with "Amateur" Bidding Procedures

by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter
Council Has Issues with "Amateur" Bidding Procedures

HUNTINGTON, WV (HNN) - Three major second readings  quickly vanished from Huntington City Council’s agenda, following recommendations by the Finance Committee which met at 5:30 p.m. Monday May 9.

The Finance Committee, chaired by Steve Williams, unanimously agreed that the bidding process for the Big Sandy Super Store Arena seat contact and solid waste disposal contract contained flaws. Council tabled both matters, pending a re-bid.

The proposed acquisition of the U.S. Naval Reserve structure on Jackson Avenue, which would have been “given” to the City of Huntington and Huntington Sanitary Board if they agreed renovations loosely estimated at $500,000 by Loretta Covington, executive director of HSB.

On the latter, council had previously wanted the resolution tweaked as it appeared to make a financial commitment by both the city and sanitary board, rather, than an exploratory proposition as the HSB claimed during at first reading.

Covington told council then that the request was not an actual vote on acceptance of the property but a granting of authority for additional authorization steps.

Jim Ritter had questioned the estimated $500,000 necessary for renovations to replace the stripped copper. “We’d like to look at this.”

Both Nate Randolph and city attorney Scott McClure echoed Jim Insco’s concern that the current language in Randolph’s words “smell like an obligation.”

Ms. Covington warned that the postponement might result in withdrawal of the offer. According to McClure at the May 9 meeting, the offer indeed had been withdrawn when the city requested that the last two paragraphs which “implicated financial obligations” be removed from the resolution.

“The city is not financially capable of taking responsibility for that building in as is condition , and , neither is the Sanitary Board,” stated councilman Jim Insco following the May 9 finance committee meeting.

THE BIDDING PROCESS

Council chairman Mark Bates , as well as Steve Williams, Jim Insco, and Sandra Clements all expressed displeasure over the current bid award procedure.

Bates phrased the challenge most delicately.

“I think it’s time to analyze our system and make it better,” Bates said following the committee meeting that preceded the council session. “Not to point fingers at anyone, but I am concerned the competitive bidding process is not properly followed,” the chairman said referring to the police radio purchase as well as the solid waste and arena seating contracts.

Ms. Clements simply said, “we need to look at how to make [the bidding process] work more typically.”

However, Finance Chairman Williams pulled off the gloves.

“We’ve had amateur hour here. It’s almost like a death of a thousand cuts. Sometimes specifications aren’t precise. Sometimes something [was] missed in the procedure. Sometimes they accept bids that address one thing and other bids address another.”

Williams emphatically emphasized that he saw no intention to favor one bidder over another, rather, “it’s time to get our I’s dotted and our t’s crossed before we put something before the body [of council].”

In fact, the Huntington Fire Department had asked for an emergency purchase after a central air conditioner went out. The matter was resolved by purchasing portable units that were within the department’s budget and spending power. As for the necessary full repair, “We can step back and do a more comprehensive review,” Williams said.

Although the administration would have preferred that council vote on the contracts as presented, Williams stated that council as a whole wanted a complete re-bid.

“It’s very clear [the administration] is inexact in their processes and as a result inefficient in the way they conduct business.”

The at-large councilman and banker had after the last meeting looked over the bids. Similarly, members of the administration made trips to North Carolina to look at arena’s there which had Hussey seats (the lowest bid) and Irwin seats (the $1.5 million dollar higher bid).

Hussey claimed that the specs were written around Irwin’s more expensive product. However, at the time of making the bid, they did not have a WV contractor’s license. The license has now been obtained, and the company will participate in the re-bid, if it occurs.


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