Monday, January 17, 2011

Field House Study Bypassed Competitive Bidding

Godfrey signed retroactive waiver last week; consultant funneled funds to architect

By Dan Schroeder

Documents recently released by the Ogden City administration indicate that the city bypassed the usual competitive bidding process when hiring Hotel & Leisure Advisors to perform a feasibility study for the proposed field house project.

Although a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the study was prepared by the city in late October, the RFP was apparently never published as the city’s ordinances normally require. Instead, Mayor Godfrey signed a waiver of competitive bidding procedures on January 11, 2011, after the study was completed. City Ordinance 4-2B-9(G) allows the mayor to waive competitive bidding requirements with justification, and requires that the city council be informed of all such waivers, but does not specify when the waiver must be signed.

The newly released documents also show that H&LA was contracted by the city to funnel $5000 to VanZeben Architecture “to develop a building plan and elevations” for the field house. Mr. Van Zeben has created several versions of architectural sketches of the field house over the last two years, and had previously indicated that he was not being compensated for his services. Here is one of his most recent sketches, which appears in the feasibility study report (click for a larger version):


A comprehensive records request

The newly released documents were provided as part of the city’s response to a formal records request that I filed on November 19, 2010, shortly after the city council approved $38,000 in funding for the feasibility study. My request asked for all city records pertaining to the field house since last April, and specifically asked for records of the feasibility study procurement process.

Although Utah law normally requires the government to respond to a records request within ten business days, Ogden did not begin providing responsive records until December 15, when it allowed me to view an uninteresting file of information that had been gathered on other recreational facilities around the U.S.

Field house emails and plans

A week later, on December 22, the city released a large stack of printed emails pertaining to the field house, from which I copied a small selection that seemed interesting (pdf, 1.2 MB). Some of the emails describe behind-the-scenes efforts at lobbying city council members, county commissioners, and the RAMP board to support the field house. Others describe attempts to solicit funding from the Utah Legislature and the G.S. and D.D. Eccles Foundation (with considerable help from Brad Mortensen of WSU). There’s an email from Greg Easton, dated May 22, explaining why the field house won’t work as an archery facility; and there’s a city-produced drawing showing a proposed alternate location for archery. Other emails reflect the decision to relocate the field house from the previously proposed location northwest of downtown, the subsequent push for a feasibility study, and some early communications with the consultant regarding the details of the study.

Along with the emails, I was given an earlier architectural sketch by Van Zeben, showing yet another possible layout for the field house interior (click for a larger version):


This version includes much less space for the water park. Also, like the later version shown above, it includes ground-floor retail spaces facing both 24th Street and Kiesel Avenue. However, the sketches presented to the public last December, and currently posted on the city’s field house web site, show no retail space. It isn’t clear whether that version was drawn before or after the one in the study report.

The emails also included this aerial photograph of the proposed field house site, showing the buildings slated for demolition and the various utility lines that underlie the area (click for a larger version):


The mayor’s narrative

On December 27, the city released a PowerPoint attachment (converted to pdf, 1.3 MB) to one of the previously released emails. Although this slide show, by Mayor Godfrey, is now out of date with respect to the field house features and location, it shows how the field house fits into the mayor’s larger narrative on “Ogden’s Economic Future”.

The presentation begins with photos of old, abandoned buildings indicating “four decades of decay”, then switches to exciting action photos of snow sports, water sports, climbing, and mountain biking. Next come photos of a rejuvenated downtown Ogden, with maps depicting projects that are supposedly “completed” and “in progress”. After describing the field house itself, the presentation ends with inspiring quotations on the virtues of risk-taking from Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy.

The feasibility study contract

Although my November 19 records request specifically asked for the full procurement file for the field house feasibility study, city officials apparently ignored this part of the request until after Christmas. On December 23 I sent a written reminder, and finally, on January 3, the city gave me a copy of the two-page RFP (which had already been published on the city council web site as part of its November 16 information packet). On January 6, I pointed out to the City Recorder that the RFP was undated, and asked for the city’s record of when it was published. The City Recorder then inquired with the Purchasing Supervisor, who responded with a one-line email: “Was not a formal bid. Estimated to be under $25K when the request came in.”

I immediately responded by pointing out that the city’s ordinance requires a competitive bidding process for professional services valued at over $10,000, not $25,000. The ordinance does use the word “estimated”, and it isn’t clear how big a loophole this opens for exceeding the $10,000 threshold. The feasibility study contract was for $38,000.

After another week, on January 13, the city provided me with a copy of the contract itself. The contract is dated November 24, 2010. Attached at the end is Mayor Godfrey’s memorandum, dated January 11, 2011, waiving the competitive bidding process for the consultant’s already-completed work.

Mayor Godfrey used a similar retroactive waiver in 2007 for the already-completed gondola fiscal impacts analysis. I do not know whether Mayor Godfrey has signed such retroactive waivers for other contracts, or whether there have been other contracts, over $10,000, that bypassed the competitive bidding process but for which it was never formally waived.

Still waiting for financial records

After nearly two months, the city’s response to my November 19 records request remains incomplete. For example, the city has not yet released all records of correspondence with H&LA, or any records of correspondence with the other consultant that it supposedly considered.

Furthermore, the city has not yet released any financial records pertaining to the field house project. My request specifically asked for records of financial transactions related to last spring’s Tour de Drome fundraiser, as well as records of payment for recent travel, by city officials and others, to comparable recreational facilities in Los Angeles and Kansas City. The City Recorder tells me that the City Attorney’s office “continues to work” on my request.

24 comments:

Curmudgeon said...

Yet another example of a private party doing the digging the SE ought to be doing. Thanks, yet again, Dan.

And I'd note the obvious, which shouldn't be necessary but often is where our present city council is concerned: If the mayor can, retroactively, waive the competitive bid requirements in city ordinances [after contracted work has been completed], then the competitive bid ordinance requirements are, in effect, null and void and of no effective worth. Might as well revise the ordinance to read "Competitive bids shall be required of all projects estimated to cost $10,000 unless the mayor doesn't feel like it."

Prediction: the City Council will sit still for this and meekly comply with Hizzonah's government by fiat yet again. And if they do, we need to ask at the coming election of each incumbent what the hell we approved substantial raises for for elected officials who can't be bothered to do their jobs.

NOrThOgdener said...

Once again Dan, a big thank you.

T.R. Morgan said...

While on the campaign trail this past year, the rhetoric I heard almost as much as complaints about the crazy property tax system in the county was that, "government should not be doing what the private sector can do." I guess that only applies to individual welfare, not corporate welfare. Really, if a field house was such a good idea, why isn't there a private entity taking the reigns? It is because there is not a viable profit margin. The city/county can get away with it because they can just keep bonding our kids deeper in debt. I wish more citizens would look at what the city/county is doing with our money. The county's balanced budget is nice, but there is still so much waste, that most sensible people would be shocked. I guess if you keep voting for the status quo, you shouldn't be surprised to get it.

ND said...

Wow! Looks at the names and angles being thrown around in those emails! Also there was reference to 50k in the study and half going to the architect....so bassakwards...study first then drawings....such a wealth of info here for a decent article....should be interesting if the SE says a thing....

TR...I suggested the same thing earlier that if this is such a great idea where is the private sector.....

A naysayer said...

If Godfrey runs for mayor this year, please tell me that someone is going to send a mailer to all Ogden City residents with an itemized list of Godfrey's wrongdoings over the last several years. Is the average Joe Citizen aware of the Junction debt, the FNURE money laundering, the ridiculous hotel proposal, etc.?

Ogden really can't go on like this for another four years. Someone has to put an end to the madness. I feel really bad for whoever takes the reigns. They'll be inheriting all of the problems created by the slimy mayor.

OgdenLover said...

How about finishing the River Project? OK, that property is tied up by the State of California since Gadi Lesham was convicted of fraud,so Godfrey has to come up with another project for his playground. That's Ogden, BTW.

Dan S. said...

Sadly, I'm inclined to agree with Curm's prediction for the city council. But it's not a completely foregone conclusion. It would be a simple matter to close the loophole that allows the mayor to issue retroactive waivers, so perhaps the council can be pressured into doing that. Curm, will you lobby the council for such an ordinance?

Adrian said...

Seems like whether it is feasible we are getting a Field House downtown. It's good to see the Mayor paid attention to the financial crisis which has affected everyone over the past few years. Who cares if we can really afford it? We'll just borrow money and when we can't make the payments we'll just borrow some more money.

Bill C. said...

Dan and Curm, not only could this Council allow the mayor to get away with this, he could be planning on doing this again starting tomorrow night.
$58000 for a gondola study, this is also on the CIP list and sure to happen real soon.
Couldn't six Council votes remove both these super stupid wastes of dollars from the CIP list and spare the citizenry the heartache and embarrasment?

blackrulon said...

Come on Gary Williams. Let the healing/curing begin.

Bee in my Bonnet said...

ok -- am I the only one who thinks it ~might~ be a good/better idea to field the location of a field house over to the old Fred Meyer location?

Is there something anyone knows about that property that prevents it from getting developed? Is the owner sitting on it? Did the owner die and leave no will? Can the owners even be located or identified? Why has it sat for Soooooo long with no signs offering the space for lease or sale?

Anyone?

Dan S. said...

Bee:

I agree that the Fred Meyer location is an embarrassment and a prime site for some kind of redevelopment. But it's not a good site for the field house because it's so far from all the hotels.

What everyone in Weber County needs to realize is that this field house is not for us. It is for tourists staying in the downtown hotels, and for bringing athletic events to town that will help fill the hotels.

Of course, we'll still be allowed to use it whenever nobody else wants to. The school district and WSU should be asking what happens when one of their sports teams needs to practice at the same time as a hosted regional event.

ND said...

Its still 30 to 40 MILLION that we dont have irreguardless of where it goes....

Interesting article in the SE today about it....focused on it being managed privately....of course if it was such a good idea it would be built privately....the numbers wrangling on the profit it will make is ridiculous....78k on 6 million....no room for errors there.....

OneWhoKnows said...

Do-It-All & Know-It-All Scottie Brown probably put this empty bid together again. Remember, this is the guy that didn't use green board drywall for the flow rider because he told us all that water wouldn't be a problem. Well, it was and it cost the taxpayers $300K + for that slight miscalculation. Hold on to your ass.

ND said...

The same dood that had the biggest construction company in the West?....the same one that underestimates construction costs and overestimates revenues then blames others for the differences? the same one that filtered potential real estate investors to his bro from his city position? that one?

OgdenLover said...

That overhead photo of the parking lot east of the Marriott must have been taken at 5AM. Finding a parking spot there is next to impossible during the day. The businesses in the adjacent buildings need parking places for their customers.

Bee in my Bonnet said...

Dan -- all they need to do is fix up another faux trolley and call it a shuttle. For those deep-pockets who fill up the hotels and want to go to the field house, they can ride along the scenic River Parkway and be catered to as is their custom. Then they can just fill up the empty parking spaces with xeri-scaping to make it look nice for the turrists.

ozboy said...

Dan:

Thanks, you are a jewel and my old home town of Emerald City is damn lucky to have you around. I'm thinking of nominating you as a bonafide certified homeboy.

TO

ozboy said...

For all you out there who have wondered about and missed the Geigers since they seemingly dropped off the face of Ogden, fear not they are still amongst us and apparently are still a major part of the Little Wizard's pea brain trust.

In fact looking at this rogues list it seems like most all of the Mayor's bankrupt team of financial geniuses are still at the center of figuring out how to once and for all bury Ogden in a sea of debt.

They all show up at the top of the list in this email, one of my favorites of this batch that Dan got through GRAMA:

Fromi Godfrey Mathew
Sent: Tuesday, October 05, 2010 8:45
Subject:

Will you please set up a meeting with the following people to talk about the Fieldhouse in the next 10 days. Thanks.

Curt Geiger
Bob Geiger
Thomas Moore
Royal Eccles
Blake Fowers
Abe Shreeve
Sue Wilkerson
Jeff Lucas

Curmudgeon said...

Oz:

When I saw the list, the line from Casablanca popped straight to mind: "The usual suspects."

WHERESBLAINJOHNSON said...

It's very disappointing not to see Blain Johnson's name on the celebrity list above. PLEASE convince us it is not due to his ongoing investigation by the state attorney general!

ND said...

Ogden city just posted a RFP for architectural design services this morning in the SE.....INTERESTING NO?

Dan S. said...

Good catch, ND! For those who want to see the RFP, it's at the bottom of page 8B at the back of the Top of Utah section. That's today's paper, Sunday the 23rd.

googlegirl said...

Request for Proposal
Architectural Services
Ogden City

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