COVINGTON - Mayor Kim Carter cast the tie-breaking vote Monday night to approve renovations to the mayor's office at City Hall at an estimated cost of nearly $32,000.
The council was deadlocked 3-3 on the decision, with some members raising concerns about the cost and questions about why the project was not put out for bid.
A proposal by interior designer Susan Dario of DARIO/Associates Inc. of Atlanta estimates the total renovation costs at $25,802, plus a $6,000 base fee, putting the total at $31,802.
That estimate does not include labor costs and out of pocket expenses, such as photo copies, parcel services, film, presentation materials, blue prints and travel.
Dario's cost estimate included a $2,000 desk; a $3,500 credenza/bookshelf; $900 for two end tables; $400 for a coffee table; $1,000 for a desk chair; $3,500 for a sofa; two club chairs for $1,700 and two side chairs for $800; a desk lamp for $350; two side table lamps for $900; a $400 mirror; $1,250 worth of art; $750 in carpeting; $750 for a new door; and $588 for wall covering.
"First of all, I'm not saying that we're going to spend that amount of money. I asked what a reasonable estimate would be. Nothing has been selected. The estimate is based on what things cost in today's marketplace," Carter said.
When asked by a council member why the project was not put to bid, Carter replied that she has a personal relationship with the designer, who gave the city a discounted rate. Dario is a client of Business Works Solutions Inc., Carter's consulting, bookkeeping and payroll solutions company.
Carter said the cost would have likely been much higher if the project was put out to bid.
City Attorney Ed Crudup said there is no requirement that the city bid such projects, but that it's "common practice" for the city to do so.
Bids were solicited for smaller renovation projects, including carpeting in various offices at City Hall and the purchase of 12 new chairs for the conference room. Bids for carpeting ranged from $1,500 to $2,000; the cost for the 12 chairs ranged from a total cost of $1,940 to $4,368.
Councilman John Howard opposed the renovation.
"I think it's a lot of money. I think I made it plain that I thought it should be bid out as we do with most other projects," Howard said Tuesday.
But Councilman Mike Whatley said he thought it was a reasonable amount to spend on a new office.
"I don't know how many years it's been since we had any new furniture. I didn't see any problem with it," he said. "We use it more than we have in the past. (The mayor) uses it several days a week and we've had several meetings in there."
Most of the furniture has been in the office since the city moved its administrative offices to City Hall in 1994, according to City Manager Steven Horton.
Carter said the furnishings are worn out or in disrepair, that anyone who sits on the current sofa will "sink to the bottom," the desk is scratched and the lighting is poor.
She said it's important to make a good first impression when entertaining state and federal officials, as well as representatives from agencies such as the Georgia Department of Transportation.
She said the office is also used by council members and city staff.
"I wouldn't say it's my office. I would say it's our office," she said.
The vote to approve the renovation was tied at 3-3, with Council members Mike Whatley, Hawnethia Williams and Ocie Franklin in favor and John Howard, Janet Goodman and Keith Dalton opposed. Carter approved the motion, saying it was "time it got done," adding that the designer's proposal was submitted in February.
The money for the renovations will come out of the city's general fund and is already budgeted. The general fund typically includes money for renovations and repairs, Carter said.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.