The 311 W. Main Task Force is still in the early stages of finding the purpose – and the funding – of the former arts center on Main Street.
North Star Destination Strategies is still in the early stages of finding the identity and brand of Lansdale Borough.
BPG Properties Ltd. is still in the preliminary stages of designing a retail Mecca and parking garage at Madison Parking Lot.
With all that on their plate, borough council found room to approve this month a $40,000 contract with Delta Development Group to design and assess a Business Improvement District in downtown Lansdale.
If Delta Development Group sounds familiar, that’s because it is the group contracted by the Lansdale Parking Authority to develop a parking improvement plan in Lansdale.
While council members argued at the action session over the purchasing power, and choice of the borough manager when it comes to approving contracts with or without Requests for Proposals, all nine ended up unanimously approving the purchasing manual.
When it came to approving the contract with Delta Development, councilmen Rich DiGregorio and Jack Hansen voted against it. The reason: they wanted Kirchner to submit RFPs for the process.
A similar disagreement was argued at a recent Economic Development Committee meeting, where committee member Mayor Andy Szekely insisted on a public RFP process, according to an article by The Reporter Online’s Brian Bingaman.
At that EDC meeting, Szekely was the only dissenting vote.
Fast forward to the Feb. 15 borough council meeting, where Chantilly Floral owner Charles Booz and ReMax real estate agent Richard Strahm spoke during public comment on their support for the contract.
Booz is vice chairman of the 311 W. Main Task Force. Strahm is vice chairman of the Economic Development Committee.
“It is something Lansdale desperately needs,” said Booz. “It needs a cohesive, organized, managed Main Street that all businesses can be a part of and feel part of. We need safe streets; we need that comfort feeling of businesses that people can walk, shop and do business without being afraid of anything around them.”
Booz said the Business Improvement District contract would give that opportunity to businesses on Main and Broad streets.
“It will give us the opportunity to prosper and continue momentum on new streetscapes that we have, and Discover Lansdale, and all the things that are happening and going to happen,” Booz said.
Strahm said the argument at the EDC meeting was whether the project should go forth as is or if an RFP should bring other players into it.
“A lot of thought has gone into this by the parking committee, who has already vetted this company completely, who is already doing good work for the borough, and has put in a very good proposal to do what is needed for the Business Improvement District,” Strahm said. “Any delay in getting the project up and running would be a detriment to the borough. This company is well suited to do what we need.”
Prior to the vote, DiGregorio said an RFP should be put out for this project, as it’s been past practice of prior councils.
“It’s an opportunity to give other people a chance to submit a contract for services,” DiGregorio said.
Councilman Dan Dunigan, chair of the Administration and Finance Committee, said they are not contracted; they are professional services.
Councilwoman Mary Fuller said it was good discussion to talk about when an RFP should or shouldn’t be required and when council should look at that process. She said everybody presented a fair question.
“In this case, on this motion, I have full faith in (borough manager) Timi (Kirchner) and her choice to move forward without issuing a new RFP, taking into consideration this company has been through the RFP process,” Fuller said. “I think they are valid. I think the business district is telling us they want this.”
She said a delay would hold up the project far too long – at least six months to a year.
“There’s a strong likelihood we would end up at the same place with the same motion, but they project would be delayed,” she said. “I don’t think our business community can wait (a year).”
“And nobody mentioned the cost of going through another RFP process, and all the cost that that entails, from advertising to staff time,” she said. “I think it’s a cost savings, in addition to everything else, to move forward without an RFP.”
Hansen disagreed with Fuller that council would wind up in the same place if it delayed the project. He agreed with DiGregorio that an RFP process should be in place.
“We found Delta through an RFP process. If we were to go through the RFP process, we could find Delta again. We could find someone even better for the borough,” Hansen said.
As solicitor Mark Hosterman stated at the meeting, once a relationship with a certain consultant is established, it is often advantageous to continue that relationship with the same type of work and give that work to the same consultant.
“The work goes out without an RFP because the relationship is established and the advantage of knowing the consultant is well-versed in those issues,” he said.