Tiara Rado meeting left many questions unanswered
Fans of vaudeville missed an opportunity at last Thursday’s hastily called Grand Junction City Council meeting to discuss the bidding process for the Tiara Rado concession/restaurant contract. There was a lot dancing around answers and issues.
Those interested in the torture of common sense probably have followed the twisting path of the Piñon Grill, a vendor operating the restaurant at Tiara Rado Golf Course for the last 13 years, and the actions of his landlord, the city of Grand Junction, in trying to replace him with a new vendor — the city of Grand Junction.
The Daily Sentinel has done a fine job of reporting on apparently doctored evaluation forms for the vendors applying for the contract at its renewal. That most of the evaluators worked for the city and may have changed scores to favor the city’s own bidder should be enough to call the entire process into question and garner some censure from the City Council. But alas, and unsurprisingly, nothing was done.
The city’s seems to have tried to arrange this takeover through an innocuous process, but when discovered the administration responded, in ways that are becoming familiar, defensively.
Questions were raised as to the level of service on the part of the existing vendor, which came as a surprise to him.
It was even mentioned that the primary concern of the city is to provide for golfers at the city-owned course. However, on the city’s website, where it discusses the Piñon Grill, the city advertises: “When planning a wedding or a party, be sure to make reservations at the Piñon Grill restaurant.” Clearly golf is the first priority.
Upon the detection of the process defects and their subsequent reporting, the administration seems to have become retaliatory, ending in the bureaucratic nuclear option: an audit. The sales tax “problems” appeared at the very end of the discussion and were seemingly only recently discovered.
Controversy creates a marvelous opportunity for coincidence.
This seemed to raise concern on the part of the largely compliant City Council, but the question was pushed away by the city manager and amazingly not probed further. The truly sad part of this display was the meekness of the council in addressing these issues. Shyly asked questions by council members were pushed back and not followed by any request for further inquiry or investigation.
Also notable was who was not present at last week’s meeting, namely the present vendor. As the Sentinel has reported, he said he was not told about the meeting. Equally interesting is that the Parks and Recreation director, who was present, claimed to know nothing about the the city bidding on the contract until the end of the submission process. Even stranger was that the director in charge of Two Rivers Convention Center, which was the “winning” bidder for the new contract, was not present at the special council meeting to provide what would seem to be crucial information to the council about the process.
Motivations will vary and are probably overlapping, but one seems obvious to me: The city, experiencing budget issues and layoffs, might be tempted to take over a private-businesses operation at a city-owned facility and replace it with its own operator.
Another comment of note is that the city and its taxpayer-funded food service has been quite unhappy with the rise of Mesa State College’s student center and its full-service ballroom/convention facilities, which might be pulling some groups away from riding the white elephant at the end of Main Street.
If this is the treatment that vendors can expect in their dealings with the city, it would not be surprising to see an effect on the quality and number of bidders. Remember that the ambulance service, which the city removed from a private vendor and took over itself a few years ago, is about to be placed back out for bid. Prospective bidders might be watching this process with a very cautionary eye.