If a government agency isn’t happy with the service it’s getting, it has every right to go out and find an alternative.
In that regard, we have no qualms with the Allen County commissioners considering expanding Miami County’s building inspections department into the region.
The fact it’s being considered in darkness should concern all taxpayers, though.
Earlier this week, the county acknowledged it never really stopped considering Miami County as an alternative to the City of Lima’s services for inspecting commercial buildings. The issue came to a head in the spring, and from outward appearances everything was solved when the sides agreed to communicate better.
Except apparently nothing was resolved. In a commissioners’ meeting Thursday, the city’s director of public works, Howard Elstro, expressed that he thought they’d worked everything out in the spring. The commissioners expressed nothing had been worked out at all.
It’s hard to judge this intergovernmental infighting, as no one’s interested in speaking in specifics about what’s substandard about Lima’s service. There’s been talk in the past that it’s too slow to respond, but an audit by the Ohio Department of Commerce’s Board of Building Standards showed Lima was above average in its service and turn-around times.
It’s Allen County’s right to move the money, which amounts to nearly $500,000 for the City of Lima right now, to whatever entity it thinks will offer the best service for the best price.
What concerns us is the commissioners haven’t taken a single vote about this. There isn’t a single request for proposals. There hadn’t been an on-the-record discussion about the issue mentioned in meeting minutes since it first came up in the spring until Elstro addressed the commissioners on Thursday about rumors he’d heard that the county considered ditching its long-standing relationship with Lima.
This should concern all taxpayers. This isn’t some kind of uncharted water for the county. The county issues contracts and makes agreements all the time. In those cases, the commissioners discusses the issue in open session. It issues a request for proposal, which is an item by item description of what the county wants to accomplish. It receives bids on the project. Then it accepts a bid on the project, using the standard “lowest and best.”
At least that’s what happens for most construction projects and requests for service. For some reason, it hasn’t followed that pathway yet. Lima hasn’t even had the chance to submit a bid that might address the commissioners’ concerns.
It’s a shame, too, since those proposals are often the best way to clear up what exactly the county expects out of its vendors.
We’re an optimistic group this time of year, though, so we’ll hope this has just been an oversight by the commissioners’ office. We’re sure they meant to do this all along. And once this is all documented accurately and opened up for a real selection, the taxpayers will rest easily to know the county did its due dilligence and made the best choice.
Until then, we demand the commissioners make decisions in the sunlight instead of the shadows.