City Board Votes to Re-Bid Sprinkler Project at Golf Course

November 6, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Board of Aldermen Monday night, after a failed attempt to override a mayoral veto, voted 3 to 2 to appropriate over $213,000 to fund an irrigation system for the fairways at the Smithville Golf Course and to re-bid the project.

The city budget will have to be amended to fund this project with $86,000 to come from the general fund under the golf course account, and $127,000 from the general fund surplus.

Aldermen Tonya Sullivan, Willie Thomas, and Jerry Hutchins Sr. voted to spend the money, while Aldermen Cecil Burger and Steve White voted against it.

On October 15th, the board voted 3 to 2 to award the bid on the golf course sprinkler system to Oasis Irrigation for $213,716, the lowest of the four bids submitted.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson later cast a veto of the board's decision based on an opinion of City Attorney John Pryor.

In the letter to Mayor Hendrixson dated October 25th, Pryor wrote that "The Municipal Purchasing Law of 1983 as codified in (state law) requires that all purchases made shall be within the limits of the approved budget for the department which the purchase is made. My review of the budget does not reveal such funds being appropriated for such a purchase. This could be fixed by amending the budget, which should occur before the approval of the purchase."

"Second, as pointed out by Brian Burns with Rainbird, the bid package required specific parts and or equipment and did not include language that would allow equivalent equipment or parts. Again, the Municipal Purchasing Law of 1983 as codified in (state law) requires purchases to be made only after competitive bids. My concern is our bid may have been too exclusive."

"I consulted with Don Darden of MTAS and he agreed with me as to these potential problems."

Monday night, the aldermen attempted to override the mayor's veto. Aldermen Sullivan, Thomas, and Hutchins voted for the override, but Aldermen Burger and White voted against it. Since four votes are needed to override, the mayor's veto was upheld.

The city board will formally act on making the appropriation by ordinance on first reading at the next meeting on Monday, November 19th at 7:00 p.m. Second and final reading action will come following a public hearing at the December 3rd meeting at 7:00 p.m. at city hall.

On September 17th, the board voted 4 to 1 to accept bids on the golf course sprinkler system and take half of Jimmy Lewis' rent to pay for it over time. Lewis is the tenant at the golf course. Lewis would continue to pay his monthly rent of $2,500 per month with half going to the general fund and half going to the city to pay the debt of the irrigation system. Aldermen White voted against it.

On October 15th, the board voted 3 to 2 to award the bid. This time, Alderman Burger joined Alderman White in voting no.

Concerned citizen Warren Johns, who addressed the city board Monday night, said since the mayor chose to veto the October 15th vote by the board, the September 17th action, which was the basis for authorizing the funding of the sprinkler system, is still valid. Johns added that the aldermen, by voting to re-bid the project, may be risking a lawsuit by the Oasis company for breach of contract, and possible personal liability. He also seemed to question whether the mayor's veto of the October 15th action was valid since he apparently did not sign it before sending it to the aldermen.

City attorney Pryor responded that the advertisements on the bids stated that the city reserved the right to reject any or all bids.

A representative of the Oasis company addressed the board asking for fairness and possible negotiation. " We were the low bidder. We went by the specs we were given. We are happy to entertain a Rainbird price and see if they meet the specs. If they've got the products to meet the specs and can save the city some money, we're happy to take their prices. I just don't think it's fair now that everybody knows what our prices are. We're obviously the low, qualified bidder that bid on the specifications."

Alderman Sullivan, who wanted to confirm the bid to Oasis, said "I do think that the equipment and bid price was fair and of good quality by your company and I regret that this was handled improperly. I regret that the bid packet was put out wrong and I regret that it was vetoed and that I did not have the leadership to guide this board at that time."

Earlier, Alderman White said he felt that Lewis had breached his lease agreement with the city by taking on partners, which the city has not approved, and by not submitting minutes of advisory board meetings to the mayor, as is apparently required under the lease.

The lease states that an alderman, appointed by the mayor, shall be a member of a six member advisory board. White was apparently appointed to serve by former Mayor Burger, but Mayor Hendrixson, since he has been in office, has apparently made no alderman appointment to the advisory board.

Lewis and others claim they have held meetings and that White never shows up, but White claims he is not made aware of any meetings, and when he has tried to meet with the board at appointed times, he could find no one there.

White made a motion on Monday night to send Lewis a notice of the "breaches" of the contract and to give him thirty days to correct them, as is required under the lease. White's motion died for the lack of a second.

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