John Marshall Lee has waged war on fiscal blight for years. In his latest commentary, the spending watchdog raises questions about the process to remove blighted buildings. From Lee:
Many of us who profess love for our nitty-gritty municipality long for governance delivered from the dark side of days past. We suffer a blighted history of Bridgeport practice and process. We also have blighted buildings that may never get a second chance. And as a City we spend taxpayer dollars to remove those properties, which offend the quality of life of neighbors, seem an open door to fire or added damage, and create physical danger as well as they deteriorate.
One observer has said that Mayor Ganim looks to remove such properties “yesterday” and has given this “demolition mission” to Tom Coble, a one-time Finch administration worker, who worked for Joe Ganim’s “second chance” Mayoral opportunity.
When a property is identified as “blighted” by City definition and all remedies are exhausted, demolition using outside vendors is a course of action. Normally the property is identified and bids would be solicited through the BidSync system operated by the Purchasing Department. However, on occasion, exceptions to this routine are approved for “qualified” situations where unique skills are required, or rapid work is called for, as in a desire to remove all blighted sites “yesterday.”
This places weighty responsibility in the hands of a City “demolitions” director. If he limits the firms he personally reaches to offer such opportunities, but he fails to offer such work to all qualified local taxpaying contractors, why is this being done this way? If such a director indicates that he is operating an informal bidding process, but offers no evidence of such, don’t you want to ask why it is being done this way? Questions, without answers?
When unit expenses may run $25,000 to $50,000 or more and larger sites like some in the East End of the City may command a significant multiple, why is this “demolition activity” not brought back into normal process to assure that the expense to the City is reasonable and that all vendors are considered and treated equally? Is that a fair way to offer work to taxpaying City businesses? Time will tell.