GLASGOW – Glasgow City Council has voted to allot the Downtown Parks Committee up to $ 15,000 for a design-build request for a park that the Committee has agreed to on approximately 1.5 acres one block from Glasgow’s public space along West Main Street wants to build.
The council’s unanimous decision on Monday evening came after confusion over whether the park project was a public-private venture and whether Mayor Harold Armstrong backed it.
Almost 100 people attended the council meeting to show their support for the park project. Some had signs saying âYes to the parkâ.
The plans for the park have been going on for almost two years.
At the June 14th meeting of the council, committee chairman Wes Simpson said the committee had decided to make a design-build request for proposals. Proposals should be returned by August 4th.
Meanwhile, Simpson sent a copy of the call for proposals to the city.
City Attorney Danny Basil reviewed the document and then spoke to Armstrong and Chris Johnson of the Kentucky League of Cities about it.
Johnson referred the city to Jason Halligan, an attorney with the Frost, Brown, and Todd law firm of Lexington who has worked in public-private partnerships across the state.
The city hired Halligan as an advisor on the matter. He attended the council meeting through Zoom.
Simpson said the committee was not interested in the type of public-private partnership in which individuals invest in government infrastructure in order to expect a return on their investment.
“These private individuals want to give money to the city and in return they expect nothing more than a name somewhere in the park, be it a playground or a body of water or whatever,” he said.
Simpson said he believed everyone was ready to move on with the park project after forwarding the call for proposals. He also said the council’s original resolution provided for an allocation of $ 15,000 for the design document and subsequent tendering of the project.
“We decided that at $ 15,000 we might not get what we need, so it would actually be a better deal for taxpayers if we did a design-build RFP,” said Simpson.
After sending the design-build proposal submission request to City Hall, Simpson said he hadn’t heard anything for about a week. He said he was then told the city would take it from there.
“It felt like closing the committee door before we were done with what we asked,” he said. “I understand. Not everyone agrees with the project … but Mayor, you have spoken out in favor of this project before.”
Simpson referred to news reports in which Armstrong apparently spoke for and against the project.
Simpson then told the council he was confused because he thought the project was going well.
Armstrong explained what he told a television reporter.
“I told the TV station if the council wanted it, if it was legal and we could afford it,” he said. “But I don’t think we can afford it.”
The mayor said he told Simpson that the city would need “a lifting expert” if the city were to run a design-build request for proposals.
“If we can afford to do it that way and the citizens and the council want it and not give the plumbing workers and the police a raise …” he said.
Armstrong was interrupted by booing from the audience.
Simpson then said when speaking at the June 14 council meeting, he said the committee had pulled out the most expensive part of the project, an amphitheater stage. He also said that he understood that there are laws that must be followed, but said that this was independent of the question that the mayor “turned the subject around”.
The Mayor stated that design-build requests for proposals must be made through the city and not a private facility.
A member of the public, Don Baker, then asked if the city needed a “special lawyer” to send out a call for proposals. Baker said such an attorney may be needed if the city enters into a public-private partnership.
âBut why are we spending the money on it if we don’t even know whether we will implement the project? We certainly have the know-how to create a simple tender, âsaid Baker.
Armstrong responded that the Kentucky League of Cities said the committee could make a call for proposals or sealed bids, but they would have to be through the city.
âNobody said it had to go through town. I think the question is whether the project will be a city project, the tenders will go through the city. The city has published many tenders. Why do we pay a lawyer to talk about public-private agreements that we don’t even do? âSimpson asked.
Simpson said the committee was not interested in any public-private project and that nothing in the call for proposals that he sent to the city made reference to.
“It seems like we’re wasting time getting someone to talk about setting up this framework before we can even get an award from design-build contractors,” said Simpson.
The audience then applauded.
âIt’s not a joint project. I guess that’s where we cross our cables, Mayor. This is a city project. You are financing the city’s private funds, which I can hardly believe, that are earmarked for this project. All these people ask is a name in the park and a representation if that happens to make it work, âSimpson said.
The mayor said the committee would raise $ 2 million and the city would invest $ 2 million, and this would be done as a private-public company.
“You told me that,” said Armstrong.
But Simpson said the money was actually a donation to the city and the committee didn’t want anything in return for the investment.
âAs a city, I am responsible for daily activities. If we do something inappropriate, we are in trouble everywhere, âsaid Armstrong. “You are not. You are a private person. The councilors might be (in trouble), and that’s why we have someone here to tell us. You tell him what you want to do and if he says you can do that, then it’s good. Do it.”
Councilor Patrick Gaunce requested that the committee provide up to $ 15,000 to allow Halligan to process the call for proposals and bring them back to the council for publication.
After the council meeting, Simpson said he was okay with the council’s vote.
âWe didn’t spend any city money. And the advice, if they think it is best to hire this attorney to get the publicity out on the tender then whatever moves the ball further down I will feel fine. I want to save as much money as possible in this process. That was my whole goal. But I can’t feel bad about taking it forward, so I feel OK, âhe said.
Among those attending the meeting was Brandi Button, Managing Director of Sustainable Glasgow, who oversees the management of the Bounty of the Barrens Farmers’ Market.
Button is also on the park committee.
“I think our committee and the city could have saved a lot of money and time if the RFP we gave the city two weeks ago had expired,” she said.
Button said she thought Halligan had made it clear that the call for proposals he was considering would only need to be revised if the city was considering a public-private project, which is not what the city is asking the committee to do have.
“It’s frustrating, but at the same time I feel like we’ve got a lot of support and attention and the most important thing is that the community feels heard and involved,” she said.