Firm’s selection may tarnish city’s bid process, officials say

Ward 3 alderman says vote on firm comes from his heart

By Kari Williams

Some Crestwood aldermen raised concerns about the city’s competitive bidding process possibly being tarnished after the board voted 4-3 last week to tentatively select a pool management company that was not the lowest bidder.

City staff and the Park Board recommended the Board of Aldermen select the lowest bidder, Midwest Pool Management, or MPM, instead of the current company, Lifeguards Unlimited, or LGU.

The not-to-exceed salary amount from MPM came in at $158,611, while the not-to-exceed salary amount from LGU was $165,130.

Over the course of a four-year contract, the city would save roughly $34,000 by selecting MPM.

The board conducted a first reading of an ordinance to select MPM on Jan. 23. Due to failure to receive unanimous approval for a second reading, the final vote was carried over to the Feb. 12 meeting.

The board voted 4-3 last week to reject the ordinance approving MPM. Opposed were Ward 1 Alderman Mimi Duncan, Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel and Ward 4 Aldermen Dan Tennessen and John Foote. Voting in favor of the ordinance were Ward 1 Alderman Darryl Wallach and Ward 2 Aldermen Bob Deutschmann and Tim Trueblood. Ward 3 Alderman Paul Duchild was absent.

A previous motion by Trueblood to table consideration of the ordinance was defeated with a 5-2 vote with Trueblood and Deutschmann in favor.

Miguel then made a motion to direct the city attorney to draft an ordinance for a one-year contract with LGU, which was approved with a 4-3 vote. Opposed were Wallach, Deutschmann and Trueblood.

Over the past two board meetings, aldermen, LGU employees, residents and nonresidents have spoken in favor of retaining LGU’s services. Some residents also spoke in opposition to continuing with LGU.

Trueblood told the Board of Aldermen considering LGU over MPM makes Crestwood’s “bid process a hollow process at best” and makes the Park Board’s actions “worthless.”

“I’ve seen members of the board go over our budget with a fine-tooth comb and quibble over $5 or $50 or $100 on a budget for allowing the employees of our city to buy a rubber hose for a lawn-care project or something to that effect to water plants in one of our parks,” Trueblood said, “and I find it difficult to understand why we’re not holding to that same standard that we as a board have set for ourselves in the past.”

Clayton Berry, who has worked for LGU for three years, told the board the company has taught him teamwork and camaraderie, among other skills.

“We’ve gone beyond that to the point of almost uniting as a family and what would we do if that family fractured apart?” Berry asked the board. “… These are all very good kids and LGU has taught all of us so much in our life.”

Mayor Jeff Schlink said his wife and daughter use the Whitecliff pool and have “always had very positive things to say” about the lifeguards and Crestwood staff.

“We get all that,” Schlink said. “That’s not falling on deaf ears up here, but understand that there’s a bigger picture here and that’s the message we either send to the city employees as well as prospective vendors …”

Schlink said in a competitive bid process the expectation is to go after the bid that will meet the city’s needs at the lowest cost.

“That’s what the department heads are looking to do with taxpayer money,” he said. “It’s a different message to send to department heads, to the city employees, that you don’t always have to take the lowest bid. It’s contrary to what we would normally communicate to them.”

Duchild stated in a letter to Schlink that both companies are equal in their abilities and the decision comes down to the competitive bid process.

“I realize the decision to switch pool management companies may not be popular with those residents who spoke in favor of Lifeguards Unlimited,” Duchild wrote, “but we cannot afford to squander an easy $34,000 savings, then propose a tax increase at a later date. It just doesn’t make sound fiscal sense, and our budget does not afford us the luxury of choosing the more expensive bidder.”

Foote said the decision to recommend MPM was economic, but in deference “to strong support of the residents and people who utilize the pool.”

“On this issue, I’m leaning toward giving the residents what they requested,” Foote said. “But it will have a price. Something else somewhere will have to get cut.”

Tennessen, a member of the Park Board, said the discussion that resulted in recommending MPM “was not easy” and he voted against recommending MPM.

“I believe we have great budgetary problems. I believe they’re far in excess of the $34,000 we’re talking about tonight,” Tennessen said. “So I believe that because the pool is sort of one of the jewels of Crestwood, we have to protect that …”

Miguel said looking at the bottom line the decision is “pretty much a no-brainer,” but selecting LGU for one more year is “an opportunity to create some good will” in the community.

“My vote is really a vote for the lifeguards, the teenagers, the college students,” Miguel said. “… I don’t often vote with my heart, but this is probably going to be one of the exceptions I make to that rule.”