The process McMinnville officials are using to liquidate the Blue Building rubbed me the wrong way and sparks flew.
In my 18 years reporting on local government, I’ve never seen a request for proposals (RFP) used when selling a piece of property. Properties have always been sold using a fair and competitive bidding process and the only fair way is to sell property is live auction or sealed bids. The highest bidder wins.
Through August, city legal counsel Tim Pirtle was adamant that those two avenues were the only way to do it. In September, the city’s new Community Development director David Baird suggested using an RFP.
Apparently, as explained to me by Baird, other government entities have used an RFP process to sell properties, even if it hasn’t been done in Warren County. He sent me RFP examples from the city of Bristol, city of Knoxville, city of Red Bank, city of Beaver Dam, city of Pigeon Forge, city of Hickory, N.C., and Memphis.
When I asked Baird if any of those efforts had been challenged legally due to allegations they are not a fair and competitive bidding process for liquidating government property, he replied that he did not know.
RFBs, which is a request for bids and usually related to construction projects, require a public bid opening be conducted after the deadline to submit has passed. It’s one of the fundamentals of a competitive bidding process. Any interested party can attend and watch as the bids are opened and read aloud. It ensures everything is fair.
No public bid opening will be held for the Blue Building RFPs after the deadline to submit has passed. According to city administrator Nolan Ming, one is not required and RFPs can be opened as they are received.
When I expressed concerns to Ming about the possibility of one being received, opened and then that information passed onto another individual who has expressed interest in also acquiring the property, he said he felt most RFPs would come in last minute.
Due to concerning statements made during the Sept. 14 city meetings, with at least one alderman expressing a desire to review the RFPs in private and keep them out of the public eye, I was on high alert as to what would come next. As I’m reviewing the RFP information generated by the city, they were indeed making an attempt to keep the RFPs out of public view as they narrow down the applicants.
This is when sparks flew. I’m surprised I wasn’t a victim of spontaneous human combustion. I told Ming and Baird of my intention to submit a records request on Oct. 21 and if I did not receive those RFPs, we would see how far Morris Multimedia wants to push it legally.
While I’m still not convinced that RFPs should be used for selling government property, I have been assured all Blue Building RFPs submitted will be made public.
Standard reporter Lisa Hobbs can be reached at 473-2191.