City Hall renovation contract awarded
Mayor's pick wins bid for office work over local low-bidder

COVINGTON - The Covington City Council unanimously awarded the contract to remodel the elected officials' office at City Hall to Susan Dario of DARIO/Associates Inc. of Atlanta on Monday night.

Dario's base fee of $5,800 was higher than local designer Beth Miller of Embellishments, who bid $5,000.

"We took the better bid because of the qualifications of Ms. Dario, and that's why we went with her," Councilman Mike Whatley said. "She has the qualifications to do everything we need done in our elected officials' office."

Dario was Mayor Kim Carter's original pick for the project back in June. At that time, her base fee of $6,000 plus cost estimates for the renovation totaled nearly $32,000. Dario is a client of Business Works Solutions Inc., Carter's consulting, bookkeeping and payroll solutions company. The council was deadlocked 3-3 on the decision, with Carter breaking the tie in favor of hiring Dario.

Two weeks later, however, the council agreed to put the project out for bid with an evaluation committee consisting of Carter, Mayor Pro Tem Whatley and Mayor Pro Tem-Elect Hawnethia Williams to review the bids and made a recommendation to the council.

A total of three bids was received: A bid from Indoff Office Interiors of Woodstock was disqualified because it did not meet the scope of work outlined in the bid solicitation, Carter said. Indoff's quote was $7,713 for the design, freight, delivery and installation.

Total project costs, including furniture cost estimates, were not included in the bids.

The City Council will get final approval of all actual and estimated costs, City Manager Steve Horton said.

"This would include a budget for furnishings and, as of yet, we have no furnishings list or costs provided as the bid approved last night is only for the purpose of conducting interior design services," Horton said, adding that a furnishings list would be developed later.

Carter said efforts will be made to purchase furniture and other items locally.

During a work session prior to the meeting, Councilman John Howard questioned why the local low bidder was not chosen.

Carter said Dario is more experienced with commercial interior design, while Miller is more experienced on the residential side.

According to Dario's Web site, she specializes in interior design of luxury hotels and country club facilities. Her projects include the New York Marriott, the Crowne Plaza in Niagara Falls, N.Y., and the Tazza Coffee and Espresso Bar in Atlanta.

Miller's commercial projects include the president's office and conference room at SKC, Georgia Central Bank in Social Circle and a State Farm Insurance office in Conyers.

Carter has said the current office furnishings are worn out or in disrepair. She said it's important to make a good first impression when entertaining state and federal officials. Most of the furniture has been in the office since the city moved its administrative offices to City Hall in 1994, according to Horton.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.