Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Thursday

June 20, 2013

Editorial: L&P must solicit bids for consultant contract

If Traverse City Light & Power could get savvy advice on how to maneuver its way through the next 10 or so years, that advice would be a bargain at twice the $60,000 quoted by a strategic planning firm.

Considering that the decisions the utility makes could result in millions being invested in energy generation, renewable energy and conservation, $60,000 is a pittance.

But just as important as the money is how the city-owned utility does business — a reality that Light & Power seems incapable of embracing.

New L&P executive director Tim Arends solicited the proposal from Hometown Connections, a firm that recently conducted an assessment of the utility’s management and operations.

That analysis was pretty much spot-on. But just about anybody could have figured out that the sniping and power struggles that have marked the relationship between the city commission and the Light & Power board over the years were the root cause of most of the utility’s problems.

So that doesn’t mean Hometown Connections knows it all and it doesn’t excuse Light & Power from not seeking bids from other firms. And there is zero justification for granting Hometown Connections — or any firm — the kind of open-ended clause like the one offered Hometown that would leave Light & Power on the hook for all travel and lodging expenses, whatever they may be.

That’s not how a public body does business. To properly serve the taxpayers, a public board or commission creates a bidding process that allows those representing the public to weigh bids and look for the best, most creative deals. And nobody (except maybe the Pentagon or the IRS) gets a blank check on hotel rooms, meals and airline tickets.

But that’s the way things have played out so far and why Light & Power again finds itself painted into a corner of its own making - and the public wondering what’s going on.

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