Florissant Council, Mayor Disagree on Bidding Process
By Carol Arnett
The Florissant City Council last week discussed the procedure for introducing a bill appropriating funds before tabling a bill that would provide $300,000 for replacement of ball field lights and light poles on two fields in St. Ferdinand Park.
At issue was not the funding, many council members said, but the way in which the city appropriates money. In this case, the $300,000 is an estimate of the cost. After the money is appropriated, the city will send out a request for bids.
Councilman Tim Lee said he thought that the city was not going to use this process any more. He said he would prefer to see bids before appropriating funds.
“This was an issue we discussed in our last work session. We were asked because of the urgency of getting information forward and starting the bid process if we could authorize the parks department to start getting bids.” The council voted unanimously, he said, to authorize the parks department to get bids and also voted unanimously to hold off the appropriation until the bids were in place. He said the council decided they would like to see bids before appropriations were made.
“Well, Mr. Lee, with all due respect, you’re going to have to table every bill that comes before you,” Mayor Tom Schneider said. “This is the way we do purchasing. This has been reviewed by our finance director, our public works director and our city attorney.” He said that he had discussed this with Lee earlier in the week.
Lee said that his recollection of the meeting earlier in the week was that Schneider would present him with the positions of the attorney and other directors, not present the bill.
“I urge the remaining members of the council to vote on this bill. The longer you delay this, the longer it’s going to take us to get this bid out,” Schneider said.
Councilman John Grib said he agreed with Lee that the council had agreed to change the process. However, he said, he has done research that showed that some contractors expected a first reading of the bill before bids. He said that he had no problems having a first reading, but would require all bids and other information before a second reading and final vote.
Schneider agreed. “I would appreciate letting the first reading go and then we can discuss this in more detail. The position of the administration is that we have been doing it the way we’ve been doing it for 50 years.” Scheinder added that the method had worked well for the city. “This is an administrative responsibility that the council is perhaps trying to meddle in.” Schneider said that he would continue to ask the council to appropriate funds and then put things out for bid when the money in appropriated.
“In all due respect, this may be the way we’ve been doing it for 50 years, but it’s not working,” Lee countered. He brought up a previous appropriating bill in which the council was asked to appropriate $33,500 to replace a light post. He said members of the council questioned the high price, and when bids came in, the cost was $17,000.
Lee said there have been other instances when bids come in higher or lower than appropriated. He noted that the council is responsible for appropriating funds. He said that they already discussed this at a work session and took a vote, and now he feels blindsided that the bill was placed on this agenda.
“I object to the way this went,” Lee said. “I’m not going to allocated funds for a pig in a poke when I don’t have any idea how much its going to be.”
He said that at the work session, the parks department and the mayor asked the council to expedite this project and get bids. Now, Lee said, they find out that 10 days have passed and no requests for bids have been sent. Schneider confirmed that no request had been sent.
“Since there have not been any requests for bids sent out,” Grib said. “Maybe that’s something the administration can do in the next two weeks if we table this.“
City Attorney John Hessel said that different cities handle appropriations and requests for bids in different ways, and both the current method and the proposed method are legal.
Lee made a motion to remove the item from the agenda. The council voted 8-1 to remove it. Mark Schmidt was the only vote to leave it.
In other action, the council:
- Held a public hearing about the property at 12925 New Halls Ferry. This was formerly a Long John Silver’s; it is at the intersection of New Halls Ferry and Parker Rd.
James Woodworth, an architect on the project, spoke to the council on behalf of Miami Grill, the restaurant that would like to move in to the spot. Miami Grill would keep the existing building for a drive-in, carry-out restaurant.
“There will be no physcial changes to the building,” Woodworth said. However, the restaurant has already done some landscaping and made repairs to the parking lot.
The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of the project. The council held a first reading on the bill that would allow the business.
- Again postponed the bill that would approve the CVS Pharmacy at 1191 Dunn Rd. (at the intersection with Dunn and New Florissant Rd.) CVS requested the postponement.
- Passed the bills that will create and fund the Homeowner Assistance Program and the Property Acquisition Program. One of these programs will allow the city to offer to match down payments on homes for new residents of the city. The other program will enable the city to purchase homes that have been seized by St. Louis County for delinquent tax payments.
- Held the first readings on several bills that will adopt the city’s budget for fiscal year 2014.
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