PB: Another No Bid Deal – WBAY Edition

by SDM

SDM has a long memory. In fact, this blog was the first to criticize Palmetto Bay’s decision to spend as much as $100,000 on its cable tap Channel 77, also known as WBAY. See Palmetto Bay: Welcome to the Shelley Stanczyk Show!

Last year, the village council approved $25,000 to hire a consultant “to swiftly design, configure, and customize a quality programming package, to develop a branding concept and Channel 77 logo package, and to provide project management from creative concept and content to final product.”

Apparently, this initial contract was Phase I, though nowhere in the January 9, 2012 resolution does the term “Phase I” appear. Nevertheless, the council has before it tonight a Phase II project for another $19,000 to update graphics and branding, update the “:30 second station promotion” and “seek out underwriter/sponsorship opportunities” in the amount of $21,000.”

[SDM Ed. Note: Check out an excellent comment from an SDM reader on whether the first $25,000 was to pay for Phase I.]

Bill Kress, Palmetto Bay’s communications person claims in the staff analysis that “upon completion of ‘Phase 2,’ the Village’s Government Access TV program will be well positioned to continue its evolution as a high-quality, staff-managed communications service – sustained by robust underwriter support.” He might have added “…and will help justify Captain Kreepy’s continued employment as station manager/village flack.” (Captain Kreepy is SDM’s nickname for Kress. See Weird and Kreepy Update.)

SDM continues to be amazed by the village’s management and its seeming inability to place these expenditures into the larger context. So, as a public service, SDM will look first to the trees and then to the forest.

First, how does village staff come up with the figure of $21,000 as the magic amount of underwriter support? SDM calculates that WBAY has already cost the village $25,000. Add on this contract and the figure is $44,000. And, the village has said it will spend up to $100,000 on the station. Shouldn’t underwriter support be set at an amount that will cover all of these costs? If you plan on running a government-owned television station, shouldn’t the taxpayer-owners be held harmless from the ongoing costs or, heaven forbid, recoup sunk costs?

SDM Wonders: Given Palmetto Bay’s history of shaking down vendors, will this “underwriting” be borne primarily by those seeking favors from the village council?

Second, why did staff omit the term Phase I in the original resolution? SDM has a possible answer but it is not going to sound very pleasing.

Palmetto Bay’s procurement code permits the village manager to avoid bidding out small contracts, which are between $5,000 and – conveniently enough – $25,000. (See Sec. 2-175(f), Village of Palmetto Bay Code of Ordinances.) There is logic and good business sense in setting such a policy because the cost of competitive bidding can become burdensome on both the village and potential bidders when the total contract amount is low.

But here, SDM would argue the Village Manger knew or should have known that the project’s true cost was at least $44,000 – an amount clearly outside of the village manager’s authority. One might conclude from these facts that the Manager broke up the contract into two phases so as to avoid the procurement ordinance’s limitations.

SDM Wonders: Would more firms have bid on the initial contract had they known the total package might reach $44,000?

SDM Says: The Village Manager should tell the public when he knew this project had two phases and if his intent was to break the deal up into two parts so as not to trigger a truly competitive selection.

Third, since Palmetto Bay has some new faces on its council, isn’t now a good time to review whether the village should be operating a television station at all?

SDM loves that the village streams its meetings, but how many folks actually tune-in to WBAY? For that matter, what is the maximum audience given the nature of the programming? Is WBAY efficient on a cost basis?

SDM Wonders: Should the relatively tiny Palmetto Bay be running a television station? Really?

SDM Codebreaker: The Village of Palmetto Bay’s Manager Ron Williams placed three pretty bad ideas on the agenda this month. First a no bid contract to a consultant who purchased tickets to Mayor Stanczyk’s 10th anniversary party. Then a wasteful purchase of two electric vehicles. And finally this perpetuation of WBAY through a questionable no-bid contract. What do they say about strike three? Based on the above, Mr. Williams should be out.

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