Penny watchdog group upset over selection of contractor

I was surprised this didn’t make the front of The State today (yeah, there was other big news, but it’s still possible, you know, to get more than four stories onto a front), given that it’s about the group appointed to be a watchdog on the penny sales tax being very unhappy with the county’s biggest decision on spending the road-construction money:

Members of a citizen watchdog committee objected Monday to the selection of an out-of-town engineering firm to manage Richland County’s transportation improvement program.2005-Penny-Uncirculated-Obverse-cropped

“I’m sure you’re a great firm,” Elise Bidwell told members of ICA Engineering’s team, introduced to the transportation penny advisory committee. “But I want to know how much of the money … is actually going to go to people in Richland County for doing the job.”

Committee members said they heard the second-place finisher was rated higher than ICA on their commitment to hiring small, local and minority subcontractors.

But transportation director Rob Perry would not discuss the ratings. He said they were a private part of contract negotiations.

Richland County Council set up the 17-member citizen advisory committee, short-handed as TPAC, to oversee details of the county’s massive transportation improvement program – which got under way with last week’s pick of a project manager.

But committee members said they should have been consulted. Since they were not given the rationale behind the decision, some said, the selection plays into the hands of those skeptical about government….

Richland County Council selected ICA Engineering, headquartered in Kentucky, over Columbia-based CECS Engineering Consulting Services and three other firms.

The highly competitive contract, valued at $50 million over five years, sets in motion the beginning of the county’s massive transportation improvement package…

Disclosure: This is particularly interesting to me because ADCO did some work (a brochure) for the CECS group, which had scored higher than the group that got the contract.

It’s also interesting because I advocated for the penny (and would do so again), and this committee was set up to assuage the concerns of others about how the money would be spent, and members of the panel seem to think they’re being blown off by the county.

Which is not good.

I don’t know what can, or even should, happen going forward (like the panel, I’m sort of in the dark here), but this deserves further, very public, discussion.

4 thoughts on “Penny watchdog group upset over selection of contractor

  1. Stan Dubinsky

    “this committee was set up to assuage the concerns of others about how the money would be spent, and member of the panel seem to think they’re being blown off by the county.”

    Really?! What did you expect would happen? Our cronyist nepotisticrats like spending our tax money, and will continue to seek more of it as long as we’re too stupid or apathetic to protest and stop them.

  2. Doug Ross

    A typical government committee. No authority to do anything.

    What exactly are the enumerated powers of the committee? And how is it that transportation director Rob Perry is not required to disclose the factors used to decide on an out-of-state contractor? A cynical person like myself can think of one reason why certain contractors are selected. Follow the money.

    Does this mean the overly inflated estimates of jobs created by the penny tax needs to be revised downward by an equally inflated number? Or are Kentucky jobs good for South Carolina?

    As usual, since this is other people’s money, it will be brushed aside without much attention.

  3. Bryan Caskey

    So Richland County sets up a citizen’s panel, and then cuts them out of the loop? Someone find me my Captain Renault hat.

    Oversee: to watch and direct (an activity, a group of workers, etc.) in order to be sure that a job is done correctly


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