By Greg Smart
HUBER HEIGHTS — Monday night, the Huber Heights City Council voted 6-1 authorizing the city manager to enter into a Project Support and Management Agreement with Ken Conaway LLC for Project Management Services in the construction of new Fire Station 25. Council member Tyler Starline cast the negative vote.
Council member Tyler Starline said that in December, he said he did not like fact that this was not going through sealed bids. He said he still objects and would vote no. He said he believed this was not appropriate project to take through non-sealed process.
He said this contract has a specific provision that if city defaults and terminates the project, language gives the project manager certain financial damages he would receive. He said there was no remedy to the city in this contract if he were to wrongfully terminate.
Starline said he didn’t like the process and asked his colleagues to vote no because you “can’t let the ends justify the means.”
City Manager Rob Schommer said there was an allegation of incompetence perhaps of him or his staff regarding due diligence.
“First and foremost, regarding the businesses that were inquired with, if my work has to be checked and verified then that means I am being told that I’m not trusted,” he said.
He said Assistant City Manager Scott Falkowski presented information from universities to show what market values and rate for project management would be.
“The end result is…that the value and quality is lowest and best that we would get,” said Schommer. “And you asked the question if we did go to bid, do I think that we would have ended with the same result. I do think that Mr. Conaway would have ended up with lowest and best proposal and validated through our information, I feel that that supports that.”
Mayor Thomas McMasters said “our job is to make sure that we get the information. So, it is actually our job to ask for the information.”
Council member Judy Blankenship asked City Attorney Alan Schaeffer if he felt the contract was secure for the city if something happened to Conaway and he couldn’t do his job.
“Ken is being hired as an independent contractor—essentially an employee at will,” said Schaeffer. “…The city is obligated to pay Ken in the instance the contract is terminated early monies that he’s entitled to to the date of his termination.”
Schaeffer said a damages clause does not make sense.
McMaster’s said he thought there should be a conflict of interest clause included in the contract.
Council member Ed Lyons said he was making his decision “based on staff’s recommendation of the lowest and best bid.”
Council member Judy Blankenship said she believed the city has received quality work from Mr. Conaway and that is why she was voting for him.
“He has proven himself on every issue ever addressed,” she said.
Richard Shaw, a citizen, said he was voicing his continued concern with many residents in the city with Council’s continuation in awarding no bid contracts in searching for the best project manager for the job. He said that based on information from surrounding cities, sealed bids are typically used for this type of project. He also said the proposed project manager is not a member of the Better Business Bureau or the Huber Heights Chamber of Commerce.
Council member Mark Campbell recused himself from the discussion and vote.
“In my more than two decades serving this city, I have always operated with transparency when making decisions in the best interest of Huber Heights and its residents,” said Campbell. “As a result of the excessive, unprecedented and irrelevant spectacle that has been made about my family vacation, I’m going to do what I originally did when this matter came before us and recuse myself from voting on agenda items J and K. Although any alleged conflict of interest is falsely represented, the issue at hand is the firehouse, and that should remain the focus.”
Council also heard the first reading of a resolution setting forth certain processes and procedures related to construction bidding, change orders and construction management of the new Fire Station 25. It is expected to have a second reading at 7 p.m. on Monday, June 22.
Greg Smart may be reached at 937-236-4990, ext. 2542 or on Twitter @HH_Courier.com.