I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

$84,000.00 Change Order (Additional Charge) for "Interior Design Services/Coordination"?

I pulled this item from purchasing to discuss at the Board Workshop yesterday morning.  Something about it just did not seem right.  As discussions ensued, the more I heard-- the more uneasy I felt.

I do not think I can vote to support an $84,000.00 increase to the design costs for the new downtown school for "Interior Design Services." 

I did not hear enough yesterday from the architect, the planning department, or the operations superintendent to convince me that this is the most cost effective method to utilize in order to maximize taxpayer investment.

To everyone's credit though, this is an unusual circumstance;  We do not build brand new facilities on a regular basis, so this type of expenditure has not crossed the board table for a vote in more than a decade.
Additionally, it is understood that the effort to manage, track, and supervise the installation/assembly of all of the furniture, fixtures, and equipment will be a significant task.  No argument there.

But to Hire an Interior Designer?  Isn't that what the super rich and famous, money no object, types do? When I think of an interior designer, I think Martha Stewart, or the wife (Eva Gabor's character) from the old sitcom "Green Acres" or Donald Trump. I know that to me, to my way of thinking, Hiring an "Interior Decorator" seems like an exorbidant and/or extravagant use of precious taxpayer money.  When I added a bedroom/bathroom addition on my house a few years back, we went to Target and bought the furnishings.  Average people don't use "Interior Decorators"--that's what rich people do.

--and my blood was boiling when it was repeated, several times during the discussion at yesterday's workshop, that this expenditure was from "half-cent" sales tax funds.  Throwing that out there seemed rather flippant--as if that money is somewhat less important than general fund money.  It is all the taxpayers money!  And we're supposed to be the guardians of this money.  I also want to know if the half cent sales tax watchdog committee has looked at this--because right now I don't know the answer to that question.

So this Monday night at the regular meeting I'm going to pull this item and we're going to have a discussion on this thing before we vote on it.  I'm going to research this as much as I can before Monday night to try to find a more efficient way to outfit this school, without the necessity of a huge change order to the initial $1.5Million design award.  Initially, some discussion ideas will be the following:

1.  Have the purchasing department negotiate this "Interior Decorating"service as a part of the acquisition costs (Buying $2.6Million worth of furniture, fixtures, and equipment should include consultation, coordination, shipping and assembly)  Heck-If I go in to Ethan Allen and tell the salesman I'm going to outfit my living room with new furniture but need some design advice--that salesman will come to my house and do it for the sale!  If I go and buy flat screen TV (s) at Best Buy-I can negotiate installation, assembly, and a complete tutorial!  With the economy of scale this project is generating, this design coordination should be included in the price!

2.  Have the Superintendent organize a "tiger team"  committee---comprised of Principals and Assistant Principals, and other district staff to assist, as a group, with this undertaking.  The example I brought up yesterday was this:  Radio Shack, one of the most successful small box retailers in America today--when they open a new store and need to go in and outfit the new location they bring salaried managers form all of the surrounding area to assist.  This approach fosters teamwork and saves shareholder dollars (managers are salaried employees--meaning lower labor costs for the undertaking)  We, as a taxpayer funded school district, can accomplish tremendous things when we focus our resources. We should find a way to manage this undertaking with existing, salaried employees.  I'll volunteer to assist--I'll be the first one to help if it will save taxpayers $84,000.00!

But, back to reality, this will probably just be another instance where I'll be on the bottom of a 4-1 vote to approve the expenditure, we'll have to see where Monday night's discussion leads the board.

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