The nonfunctional fountain at Comstock Park, on the west edge of Adrian’s downtown, will be replaced soon. But several speakers at Monday night’s city commission meeting objected to the city skipping its normal bid process in awarding the $56,500 contract for the job.
The commission voted 5-1 to award the contract to The Beaubien Companies to put a new water feature in the place of the current fountain. The money will come from the capital projects budget within the Fee Estate, which is a fund bequeathed to the city of Adrian by Harriet Kimball Fee for parks and beautification.
City administrator Shane Horn said that he, Mayor Jim Berryman, and parks and engineering services director Todd Brown visited the Adrian College campus and looked at the fountain at the Adrian Tobias Center. They liked the design and contacted Beaubien, the company that installed it, and Horn said owner Tom Beaubien offered to do a design at no charge.
The Comstock Park fountain has had ongoing operational issues such as pump and mechanical problems for the last three or four years, Horn said, and currently cannot be used.
Several speakers at Monday night’s commission meeting said the city should have put the project out for bids instead of going directly to one company.
“As a former commissioner, I find this irregular,” said Kirk Valentine, who served on the city commission from 2005 to 2009 and is running for mayor in this November’s election. He said there are times when the city has to waive the bid process because of time constraints, but the city also has a financial responsibility to taxpayers.
E.J. Underwood said the project to replace the fountain should have been sent out for proposals. “I’ve been doing bid projects for 40 years and I had not heard about this project,” he said.
“It’s nothing against Beaubien. He’s my cousin,” Underwood said. “But it should be put out to bid if it’s over $10,000.”
James Greene said, “I didn’t know you guys could go out and do stuff like that — just give someone a contract without a bid.”
Horn said that in this case, city officials liked a particular design and wanted to move forward with it. “We’d like to get this done this season,” he said.
There’s nothing wrong with putting out a request for proposals, but “at some point, we wanted to just roll up our sleeves and get it done. We had a good design and we wanted to move forward in that fashion.”
Berryman said the city might not have saved money through a bid process because he doubted people submitting bids would have donated design services. He compared it to the Ted Durst Kiwanis Gateway Park or the citywide bulk trash pickup, both of which involved partnerships between the city and private businesses or groups.
“I think people in the city of Adrian are tired of delay and delay and delay and things don’t happen,” he said.
Commissioner Tom Faulhaber said he struggled with how to vote. “I’m a little torn on this issue, to be honest with you,” he said.
Faulhaber said it might have been better to talk to multiple landscape companies first.
“I may vote yes, but in the future I don’t think I would want to do so,” he said.
The vote to approve the contract was 5-1. Faulhaber joined commissioners Julie Berryman Adams, Andrew Munson, Jeff Rising and the mayor in voting yes. Commissioner John Dudas voted no. Commissioner Jerry Gallatin was absent.
Under the contract, the city will provide the labor to excavate the existing fountain and move light poles and walkways. The contractor will install the new water feature and warranty the pumps, plumbing and low-voltage light fixtures for two years.