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Randolph, council at odds over hiring more consultants By the way, this picture of Ned is awesome. By Billy Gunn bgunn@thetowntalk.com (318) 487-6378 "Alexandria's executive and legislative branches are at odds again, this time over City Council votes earlier this month to hire more consultants, which Mayor Ned Randolph has vetoed." MORE CONSULTANTS! Woo hoo! Yes! Just what we need! Why should we have to do all the learnin' when we can pay other people to do it for us? "Council President Charles F. Smith Jr. said he'll try to gather the five votes needed Tuesday to override a veto of March 7 council action that would put two consulting companies to work." Isn't the real issue that these deals were made without any attempt to find other, comparable bids? That, to me, smells like an inside deal. "One of the companies would advise on a $17 million to $20 million project to combine household and business utility meters." WHOA. That's a lot of money. More money than the city has right now for sure. "Smith said Randolph's March 10 veto of hiring Trinity Capital Resources smacks of election-year politics because Trinity would not limit bidding to local firms. Engineering design by itself, he said, would cost $4 million and go to a local firm with no experience in combining meters." Wait. What? Smith's saying Ned's playing election-year politics by vetoing a bill that awards (essentially) a no-bid contract for a project that we're not even sure we need. Oh, and he's saying we shouldn't use anyone local b/c they don't have experience in combining meters. But if we did use a local company for this project, then they would have experience! Right? But tell me again: Why do we need to spend all this ridiculous money on combining meters? ""Four million dollars is a lot of money in an election year," Smith said." And $17- 20 million is a lot of money for the next three years. "Trinity owner Steve Nosacka said Friday he would seek turnkey bids from companies "throughout the south" and wouldn't limit components such as engineering to local firms." Well, at least this guy would consider using local engineering firms. "Trinity in turn would receive a contingency fee of 1.5 percent of the project's total cost, which at $20 million would add up to a $300,000 fee for Nosacka, who would advise the city throughout the project's two- to three-year span." That's a phat deal. For Nosacka. "Turnkey projects encompass one company handling all aspects: engineering, material, labor, everything needed to complete the endeavor." I can do the same job for $200,000. All I'll need is a computer and a phone book. "In the proposed Trinity-advised project, residents' water, natural gas and electricity meters would be combined and read remotely, which would do away with city employees having to read three separate meters as they walk house to house." So we should spend $17- 20 million bucks because it's too hard to read three meters! What?!?!?!?!?!?! "Randolph's chief of staff, Delores Brewer, who is eyeing a run for mayor if Randolph decides against a fifth term this year, said the mayor's vetoes were a prudent move. Besides the Trinity contract, Randolph also vetoed one with B&B Consulting, a company that would inspect improvements being made at the D.G. Hunter Power Plant." Good for the mayor. "Brewer said the mayor reasoned both projects should have gone through the city's Architecture and Engineering Committee, an ad-hoc panel composed of three council members and two Randolph administration officials." Makes sense. Seems to me like these people think they can just push through whatever consulting contracts they want without having to involve anyone in the mayor's office. "Also, Brewer objected to the manner in which the Trinity legislation originated in Smith's council office, and only Smith signed the document that brought the ordinance before the council, which passed it 5-2 with Chuck Fowler and Harry Silver voting no." So Smith was the ONLY person who signed the document that brought the ordinance forward? The ONLY person? And then, suddenly, he was able to get four other councilmen to approve this. Hmmmmm. ""Because (Smith) is so insistent on hiring (Trinity), we had to act" and veto the ordinance, Brewer said. "I don't understand why Mr. Smith is so keen on this." Yeah, it's like Smith is trying to slide something under the table and is now getting mad and saying this is election-year politics when the story gets published. ""I'm perplexed as to his behavior," she said. A $20 million, state-of-the-art meter-reading system would require a bond issue and deserves scrutiny, Brewer said." Right! And Mr. Smith was the only person who signed the document that brought the ordinance to the table. "If the council doesn't override Randolph's veto Tuesday, Randolph likely would place the project "on the shelf," Brewer said." "There are no cities in Louisiana that combine gas, electricity and water in one meter, Nosacka said. But there are some out of state, like Chicago and Atlanta, he said." Because Chicago and Atlanta can afford this stuff. We can't. "Smith bristled at suggestions the proposed meter combination was a pet project of his, explaining that "2,000 to 5,000" meters are skipped each month and their numbers estimated by a computer, which makes for sometimes expensive adjustments whenever a meter is read again." Wow. So we can increase efficiency by about 1 or 2%! And all we have to do is fork up $20 million dollars! What a deal! Also, this will allow the city to lay off a bunch of meter readers. Doesn't Mr. Smith realize that this plan will cost the city a lot of jobs? ""I'm looking out for the best interests of the citizens of Alexandria," Smith said." So explain yourself. Why do we REALLY need this? And why is it so dangerous to actually have a discussion about this plan?