It remains to be seen if the Schenectady City Council learned anything from its recent embarrassment over the awarding of a new contract for the Municipal Golf Course restaurant concession. One can only hope so, but it wasn’t the first time the council has been kept out of the loop on a request for proposals until after the bids came in, then complained about the process. Perhaps some changes are in store.
The council members looked silly this week when they agreed to retain June Poltroak’s services for the Muny bar and restaurant concession — after putting the contract out for bid and getting one that was $10,000 larger than Poltroak’s. It decided to keep Poltroak only after several Muny patrons voiced support for her at a City Council meeting, implying that they might be less inclined to patronize the higher bidder (a pair of experienced restaurateurs).
The council may not have been required to take the most financially lucrative proposal, but as Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo pointed out, if it wasn’t going to, why waste everyone’s time (Poltroak’s, her competitor’s, council members’, or the city officials who had to draw up the RFP and process the results)? If bidders think the fix is in for a particular bidder, they’re not going to go to the trouble of submitting bids.
Admittedly, council members appear not to have known that Poltroak was so popular with Muny’s customers, or even that her contract had expired, much less that an RFP for a new one had gone out. Not surprisingly, Finance Committee Chairman Carl Erikson wants to change that so council members see RFPs before the public does.
But it’s not the first time he’s expressed such sentiment. Some 18 months ago, he accused department heads of sometimes tailoring RFP specs to discourage multiple bidders — leaving the council a dearth of choices and taxpayers often with larger bills. With plenty of experience in the purchasing business (with GE), Erikson knows how the game is played. The council, mayor and Operations Director William Winkler should listen to him and work on overhauling the city’s bidding processes.