SNH misrepresents city’s actions

Published 10:01 pm Monday, December 21, 2009

The city of Suffolk is always looking for ways to educate our citizens on matters of public interest, and we appreciate the media assisting in our efforts. However, a local newspaper has taken a recent legal process involving a historic landmark and reported selected facts to give the appearance of some impropriety.

The Obici House has been in the city’s inventory since 2002. Earlier this year the property was discussed and direction was sought from City Council as to the disposition of the property, which had sat neglected for seven years. Council directed a Request for Proposals in an attempt to save the landmark without an undue burden to the taxpayer.

While the Suffolk News-Herald has suggested that the process has somehow been shrouded in secrecy, they were present at the City Council meeting held on June 3, when the Obici House, along with the Sleepy Hole Golf Course, was discussed. The Suffolk News-Herald also had a reporter present at the June 17 City Council meeting, when Deputy City Manager Patrick Roberts gave a presentation on the Request for Proposal for the Obici House. There was also a SNH reporter present when the Request for Proposal was again discussed at the July 1 City Council work session.

Additionally, while the Suffolk News-Herald asserts that proposals were rejected without explanation, a Suffolk News-Herald reporter was present for a recap of the Obici House Request for Proposals that was given by the Deputy City Manager at the Nov. 4 City Council meeting.

At that meeting, the Suffolk News-Herald and other media outlets, were provided with copies of the presentation, as well as a copy of the detailed letter of explanation of rejection provided to the group that the Suffolk News-Herald seems to have embraced, once the document became public information.

It is important to note that the city, unlike private enterprise, is bound by laws and procedures that guide public procurement. In the RFP process that was completed in October 2009, city staff worked diligently with the applicants in providing necessary information, access and guidance. This included three on-site inspections and an extension of the RFP deadline at the request of an applicant.

This process contained very clear criteria for the review and evaluation of the proposals. Specific criteria included completeness of proposal, Obici House renovation, restoration and re-use plan; management program, historic preservation, financing capability, fiscal impact/ benefits to the city, project team & similar project experience, lease/ purchase price offer, and compatibility with Sleepy Hole Golf Course. Due diligence was utilized in the process to ensure that no unnecessary burden was passed along to the taxpayer.

While it is unfortunate that no proposal was received that met minimum requirements, city administration could not act on emotion or sentiment. And while the city is not allowed the luxury of public discussion of the individual proposals, the public can be assured that no proposal for the preservation and rehabilitation of the building was received that did not rely on the assistance of tax dollars.

The Suffolk News-Herald has suggested that the process was “flawed from the beginning,” yet it acknowledges that there is “little doubt that the process was administered to the letter of the law.” The paper suggests that following the law is a “problem,” because the “letter of the law does not take into account emotion or history. The letter of the law does not afford the luxury of flexibility. It is black and white.” The Suffolk News-Herald suggests that “emotion is the most important element. It is the part of the process that should be relied on more than any other.” So, is it the opinion of the Suffolk News-Herald that we should believe that some are above the law when it is convenient?

While ignoring facts and the law, and relying on emotion may be the position of the Suffolk News-Herald, it is not and will never be the position of the city administration, which is entrusted by Suffolk citizens to make prudent business decisions. So no matter the number of editorials meant to pressure or mislead, the city will not be forced to compromise legal requirements and act recklessly with public assets.