OCEAN CITY — It appears there won’t be an Eagle’s Landing golf ball design when the water tower at 64th Street is repainted after town officials this week reviewed bids for the paint job, but not before a fairly intense debate about the process in general.
Earlier this year, a divided Mayor and Council nixed the idea of a shared marketing opportunity with Coca-Cola that would have allowed the soft drink giant’s logo on a town-owned water tower at 64th Street near Route 90 and the entrance to the resort with some councilmembers calling the idea a sell-out. That concept was ultimately eliminated, and the water tower repainting moved to the Request For Proposal (RFP) process with a handful of options including the traditional light blue paint scheme, the light blue paint scheme with the town’s logo on it, replicating the downtown beach ball design and, finally, a golf ball and tee design promoting the town-owned Eagle’s Landing golf course and Ocean City’s reputation as a golf destination.
The latter proposal caused some heartburn for some on the council at the time over concerns promoting Eagle’s Landing on the tower was an affront to the 15 or so other golf courses in the resort area with whom the town has a partnership on marketing and advertising efforts. Nonetheless, the golf ball concept was included in the RFP in order to have all options and their varying price tags on the table.
By way of background, the town typically puts out RFPs that prescribe the scale and scope of a project and the respective bids reflect those parameters. The bids are then opened and typically remanded to the appropriate staff, which reviews them and makes a recommendation to the Mayor and Council based on costs in relation to the budget.
That typically innocuous process unfolded during Tuesday’s bid openings for the 64th Street water tower repainting, but what followed was a somewhat intense debate about the options on the table in general, but more specifically the staff review of the prospective bids.
The RFP for the 64th Street water tower paint job included the basic blue, the basic blue with the town logo, the beach ball design mimicking the tower at 1st Street and finally the Eagle’s Landing golf ball design, and the bids were as varied as the options themselves. For example, one bid had the price for just the basic blue scheme at $620,000, or well over the $250,000 budgeted for the project.
However, the other two bids were closer in line with the budget parameters, but the costs for the different options escalated. For example, one bid had the basic blue paint job at around $182,000, while adding the town’s logo would cost an additional $32,000, the beach ball design would cost $89,000 and the golf ball design would cost an additional $158,000.
Based on the seemingly exorbitant cost of the golf ball design, along with the council’s division on the idea of marketing a town-owned asset in competition with the private sector, Councilman Wayne Hartman made a motion to remand the bids to staff for review with just the basic blue paint job or the basic blue with the town logo still on the table. The options were labeled A-1 for the basic blue, B-1 for basic blue with the cell tower equipment reinstalled and C-1 for basic blue with the town logo.
“It looks like the golf ball concept might be stuck in a sand trap,” he said. “I recommend stopping at the C-1 option and remand the bids to staff for review.”
Hartman made that motion, which was seconded by Councilman Tony DeLuca, who previously was the strongest advocate for the Eagle’s Landing design. However, it was Councilman John Gehrig who objected, not to the elimination of the golf ball option specifically, but because of the apparent departure from protocol.
“I think we need to remand all of the numbers to staff and let the staff do their job,” he said. “We have agreed on a process and I think we need to honor that process.”
However, Hartman said it was not necessary to direct staff to consider the golf ball option considering the relatively high price tag.
“I hope nobody up here is considering spending $158,000 more on a golf ball logo for a government entity, especially one that competes with private business,” he said. “I don’t know why we would have them go through the process of even considering that.”
Gehrig, however, was adamant about honoring the bid process, regardless of the cost of the golf ball design.
“We had this conversation in a meeting and we have a process,” he said. “Let the staff do their job. Nobody is suggesting we want a $158,000 golf ball, but to short-circuit the process, what are we even doing up here? Why do we even have a staff?”
At one point, Hartman called out Gehrig for interjecting while he was making a point.
“I have the floor right now and when I’m done, if you want to speak, you can turn your light on and you’ll have that opportunity,” he said.
Hartman then continued to advance his idea of having the staff only consider the options up to the blue design with the town logo.
“Why put staff through a process we’re not going to hopefully even consider? I hope the taxpayers understand this. Nov. 6 is coming,” said Hartman, referring to the upcoming municipal election.
Gehrig then called out Hartman for his statements about taxpayer money and allusion to the coming municipal election. The latter is curious because Hartman has essentially already won the District 38-C House of Delegates seat and won’t be returning to the council, and Gehrig’s seat on the council is not up for election in November.
“For you to make some hero statement is disingenuous,” said Gehrig. “Let the process just run its course. We’ve had this discussion since day one. To make some hero statement, that’s just crazy, Wayne.”
Hartman stood by his assertion the golf ball option, and even the beach ball option, should be eliminated from the process.
“The math is pretty simple,” he said. “One bid is not even in the ball park. We’re here to give the staff direction and it doesn’t take a lot of math to see what direction this is heading.”
A motion was made to acknowledge all the bids and remand them to staff for further review. That motion passed unanimously and the staff will make a final recommendation to the Mayor and Council at an upcoming meeting.