Two City Council members are proposing alternatives to Mayor James C. Galie's request that the Council approve hiring an Illinois firm to conduct a study of the city's firefighting needs.
Councilman John G. Accardo has a resolution on Monday's Council agenda asking that the Council be given the opportunity to interview the three lowest bidders for the fire study. Five firms submitted proposals to the city administration last spring.
Galie is asking the Council to remove from the table and approve his choice of David W. Griffith Associates of Northbrook, Ill. The Council tabled the contract in April after the city's two fire unions objected to Griffith.
Galie last week said he made a mistake by backing down and withdrawing his request in June. He said he had backed off in part to calm troubled waters between his administration and the fire unions and in part because he didn't have the Council votes. But, he said hostilities have only escalated. Galie said he won't back down again and will stick by his initial choice of Griffith, which submitted the lowest of five bids to the city.
Accardo and Corporation Counsel Robert P. Merino said the city is not required to take the lowest bid on contracts for professional services. Merino said with professional services "you have to look at their qualifications and background."
"When it comes to public safety, you want the best contract, which may not be the lowest bid. When it comes to public safety, I don't think that dollars should be the first concern," Accardo said.
Accardo said the Griffith firm, which made a presentation to the Council last spring, was not acceptable to the majority of the Council.
The resolution further asks that if none of the three lowest bidders get majority approval, that the mayor solicit new bids.
While not on next week's agenda, Council Chairman Vince V. Anello advocates that the Council set aside $100,000 in its own budget so the Council "can authorize a study of the Fire Department or any other department that they feel they need expert advice for."
Anello said the Council then could look at the five proposals the city received and choose the one they prefer. He said the Council has the authority to do studies of its own if it puts the money in its own budget.
Anello said he plans to sponsor a resolution to that effect at a future Council meeting. Meanwhile, he said he will support Accardo's resolution. An unofficial count indicates Accardo likely will have enough Council support to get his resolution passed. That would have the effect of keeping the Griffith contract on the table probably until after next month's election.
Accardo and Councilmen Ralph F. Aversa, Vincent R. Morello and Anthony F. Quaranto are all facing re-elections bids. Fire Department staffing and the study have become issues in this election. The fire unions have endorsed all of the incumbents, except Aversa. The unions also have endorsed former Councilwoman Barbara A. Geracitano, who is seeking a comeback.
City Administrator Anthony J. Restaino said Accardo's request to review and interview bidders "overextends the Council's authority" under the City Charter. He said the Council only has the authority to ratify contracts presented by the administration. Restaino also said that no matter who does the study, the administration cannot unilaterally implement the results without Council approval.