Chesterton Tribune


Adams prompts County Council anger after misspeaking about ADA project bids

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You could have fried an egg on Porter County Council President Dan Whitten’s head last Thursday.

Whitten and a few other members of the Council hit their boiling points when it was confirmed that bids for the commissioners’ contract for a firm to do a preliminary study on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance project were not collected, as County Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center, said they were during last Tuesday’s Council meeting.

Adams told the council “five bids” came in when asked by the council if bids were collected for the study which could cost up to $150,000.

Under the belief bids were collected, the council voted to fund the project 5-1 using county income tax money with a skeptical Whitten, D-at large, voting no. On Thursday, he and Council member Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, went to ask for the bids and discovered there were none.

“I can tolerate a lot of things but one thing I will not tolerate is being lied to by another elected official. If I ask a question, I expect the truth,” Whitten told the Tribune on Friday. Both he and Rivas said they were “livid” over what seemed to be catching Adams telling a fib.

“It’s frustrating. We need to be working together in attempting to solve a lot of issues we have. But the trust doesn’t come through from little things like this,” said Rivas.

The discovery came a week after the State Board of Accounts told the county it was not in compliance with a statute for purchasing audio equipment worth $150,000 for the Memorial Opera House in May 2011 without there being a formal bidding and contract process. State law requires that purchases of $50,000 or more be put up for bids.

But Adams explained to the Tribune her word usage was not an intentional lie but a mistake on her part. The county sent out a Request for Qualifications, not for bid proposals.

“It was my bad. I should have said qualifications but instead I said bids,” said Adams.

She further explained that the request was for professional services, not a purchase, so bids are not required by state law as for the roof repairs to be done on the county courthouse.

A committee made up of personnel from the county highway, parks and planning departments looked over the qualifications and recommended American Structure Point of Indianapolis, Adams said.

Adams said she was also “caught off guard” Tuesday and was not prepared to put forward the $150,000 request to the Council, although it was on the agenda. Adams was called in from the rotunda to the Commissioner’s Chambers to answer questions the Council had about the ADA project. That’s when she made the mistake of calling the qualifications “bids.”

But does Adams’ account hold up? Here is what can be found in the Commissioners’ meeting minutes:

• On May 1, Plan Commission Executive Director Robert Thompson came to the board of Commissioners to start putting in place a plan to be in compliance with new regulations of the ADA. From what Thompson learned through the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission, all governments in Indiana are mandated to have self-evaluated inventories of all county facilities, sidewalks and roadways in place by Dec. 31 of this year or they will no longer be eligible to receive grant money from the Federal Highway Department.

The commissioners on May 1 ordered a Request for Proposals be put out to start the search for a consultant.

• At the June 5 Commissioners meeting, Thompson informed the commissioners that he had developed a RFQ in lieu of an RFP to “look at different alternatives in how the county wants to go about this.” The RFQ is ordered by the commissioners to be released.

• Five submittals from the RFQ were reported to the Commissioners by Thompson at the board’s July 3 meeting, three from firms in Indiana, one from California and another from Colorado.

Thompson reported there was a committee formed of representatives from various departments to look over the submittals and give the commissioners a recommendation.

• On Aug. 21, Thompson came back with the committee’s recommendation of American Structure Point of Indianapolis, which submitted a bid of $116,000 for the work. The commissioners vote to accept the bid and to go to the Council at their September meeting for the funding.

While it appears that Adams just misspoke, there is still a lesson here on how business should be conducted between the Council and the Commissioners, Whitten and Rivas argue.

“When we make decisions, we want to make sure we are making the best ones for the county. I want to know that it’s done right. I think the taxpayers expect us to do that,” Whitten said.

Whitten said he has since talked with Adams and the two will be in better communication.

“We’ve got to be honest with each other. That’s the long and short of it,” he said.

Agreeing was Council member Sylvia Graham, D-at large, who was also startled by the confusion.

“We can only take action on what we are told,” said Graham.

Rivas said he would like to see the county put in its own policies to seek bids on things he thinks are important such as employee health insurance, which he said has not been put to bid since 2005, and building liability insurance.

“Even if the law doesn’t dictate it, if something is so large we should bid it out in some way,” he said.

Whitten said he does not plan to rescind the $150,000 given the time constraints for the project. Adams said she expects the project will not cost the full amount since some of the work can be done in-house.



Posted 10/1/2012