Two views on how to award Muny concession contract
For several years prior to being elected [to Schenectady City Council], I witnessed several council members’ lament when the city received only one bid for various contracted services. They questioned why more companies didn’t bid. More recently, there has been an improvement in that area, and numerous bids are often received during a Request for Proposal (RFP) process.
A number of weeks ago, the Schenectady Municipal Golf Course sent out an RFP for its concession contract. Two proposals were submitted: one from the current contract holder (Proposal No. 1), the other (Proposal No. 2) from two successful Schenectady restaurant owners: One has been in business for eight years that I know of, the other for more than 25.
Proposal No. 2 outlined paying nearly $10,000 more to the city for rent and was enhanced with a number of capital investments in equipment and the physical plant. Yet, Proposal No. 1 was chosen by the reviewing committee and the majority of council members on the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” theory.
I anticipate the Dec. 9 vote will be for Proposal No. 1, which will erode the very core of what the council has been working to build: a competitive and fair selection process that factors in revenue increases, cost decreases and quality for the constituents of the city while avoiding personality contests and sticking with the “same old” because it’s comfortable.
How can we rule out new purveyors when a stronger bid by an equally reputable company is received? How would the practice we applied to the golf concession contract look applied to a paving contract? How about plowing? Health care? Would we agreeably pay more for salt because we really like the company that provides it to us and they’ve been doing a good job? Shall we ignore a company that provides the same quality salt that has been in business for many years and has a reputation for good service and comes in at a lower price? I think not.
Many golfers expressed their desire to have the current contractor stay in place. Why wouldn’t they? A great product, at a fair price is offered, along with friendly and familiar service. What customer would want to change that? They like the people who run the food service. Therefore, I had a hard time making that the deciding factor of my vote.
I struggle with the fact that they advocated for Proposal No. 1 without a benchmark of whether Proposal No. 2 would provide the same service and quality — or maybe even better! Although feedback from the constituents of this city is vital to doing a good job as a council person, in this case I felt that feedback was based on only what is familiar, while the opposition offered was conjecture.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have been “professional friends” with one of the authors of Proposal No. 2 for many years. [But] I honestly have no preference who gets the contract. What I am interested in protecting is the process. If we can’t make the process of vetting proposals for the golf concession pure, let’s do away with it. Let’s make it an unending contract that can be broken by either side when desired. Once broken, follow with an RFP. Let’s not make a mockery of our local business owners by inviting them to the table, then rejecting the stronger bid.
A Schenectady City Council committee has decided to “reward” the current concessionaires with a new contract [Dec. 3 Gazette], even though it was for decidedly less money than the high bidder. I say “reward” because that is what [concessionaire] June Poltroak and [manager] Dave Tedesco deserve. They have done an excellent job during their tenure.
I am not privy to the financial relationship with the city, but what I see is a well-run operation with a country club atmosphere at Schenectady Muny.
For example, a country club requires its members to spend a minimum at the restaurant in the off-season so the club remains vibrant. Before June and Dave, the Muny facility was empty in the off-season, but because of their work ethic and the food and service they provide, they bring the general public to the facility during the off-season.
These people are not required to be at Muny, they choose to be there.
Although the course is meticulous, it isn’t just the course, [but] the people who represent it. It takes an effort from the pro to the starter to the concessionaire because these are the people the public interacts with. In my opinion, they all do a great job.
I know and respect the other bidder and believe that she would do a good job, but there is an old adage that says “don’t fix it if it isn’t broken!”
The mayor has stated that the golf course is the “jewel” of Schenectady, and I am hopeful the City Council will allow the current concessionaires to help keep it shining!
Don’t be too quick to condemn Obamacare
No doubt there are those of us who agree with Wallace J. Hughes Nov. 30 letter), when he says that “Obamacare” is a scam, and that it undermines capitalism and the Constitution. On the other hand, there are those of us for whom the verdict on the legislation can’t be declared so quickly.
Reasons for not jumping the gun include the following: First, health care in the for-profit insurance era doesn’t have a record to be especially proud of. This past summer, the authors of a comprehensive study of U.S. health reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that, “The United States spends the most per-capita on health care across all countries, lacks universal health coverage, and lags behind other high-income countries for life expectancy and many other health outcome measures.”
The study period was from 1990 to 2010, the years during which for-profit companies all but eliminated not-for-profits from the insurance market; prior to the 1990s, the U.S. health insurance market had been dominated by not-for-profits with essentially charitable missions. More of what we were doing just prior to the introduction of the ACA in 2010 doesn’t sound like the best idea.
Second, the problems of the ACA federal website notwithstanding (New York state’s sign-up site has operated well), there are indicators that the new legislation has contributed to some positive effects. For instance, in the words of one economist, “since 2010, real health spending per capita has risen less than one-third as rapidly as its long-term average. Real spending per Medicare recipient hasn’t risen at all; real spending per Medicaid beneficiary has actually fallen slightly.” [Google “Council of Economic Advisors” for a copy of the report for specifics.]
Finally, there’s a wild card whose impact is, as yet, unknown. Under the ACA, states have the option of setting up a single-payer system — public (everyone in) and nonprofit. Vermont has chosen to institute this option, though it isn’t expected to be fully operational until 2017. Vermont’s expert adviser has been quoted as forecasting savings of 25 percent per capita.
Another scam? We’ll have to let it play out.
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