The decision — Kim Brown, Bill Carrell, David Daugherty, David McManus and Bob Midnight voting to reject; Charles Barfield, Richard Corzine and Jerry Mizell voting against — hinged on a discussion during a Feb. 20 Parks & Recreation Committee meeting during which the rates and work of Sommers Lawn Care were discussed. The business, owned by Ethan Sommers, has mowed the city’s parks for 2 1/2 years.
“It was a disservice to Mr. Sommers,” said Carrell, the chairman of the Parks & Rec Committee, before asking city attorney Rick Abell to address the legalities of the issue.
Abell said there are a number of Supreme Court cases that say bidding has to be a fair process and on an even playing field. “Unfortunately, when we went down the path of discussing (whether) to do a contract versus a bid, we really ventured over and beyond that issue,” he explained. “We actually got into the particulars of the contract with Mr. Sommers. It’s my opinion that in all likelihood that was not a fair bidding process that resulted because we actually discussed his price and other things in an open session of city council.”
With that in mind, Abell said the council has to make a determination of whether or not it engaged in a fair bidding process. If it did not, then the bids should be rejected. If it did, then the low bid should be awarded.
Carrell made the motion, with Midnight seconding, to reject all bids and take the matter back to the committee because it’s not a fair bidding process.
Just as Mayor Billy McDaniel asked for the roll call vote, Thomas Reed asked to speak. Reed was one of three bidders for the project. He told the council when he saw the advertisement for bids in the newspaper, “for me as a business owner, it was a growth opportunity . . . I feel reading it in the paper as you guys wanting businesses supplying you bids, it was a little vague. I think to table it and go back to discussion where not everybody can be present would be the easy thing to do.”
Reed pointed out the three bids — $795, $850 and $885 weekly — and that one of them was from Vienna, referring to the statement in the advertisement that “priority will be given to bidders residing in Massac County.”
“I guess it’s how much respect you guys have for each other making a presentation, publishing it in the paper and doing what you say you’re going to do. It’s part of having to make a tough decision,” he said. “As far as the prices, I feel there were three competitive bids. The low bid, to me, it’s not the preference or the favoritism you asked for in your bid so I guess it’s how much favoritism we want to show for your local business.”
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