For the second time the Mesquite City Council voted to not accept the bid of $930,056 to build a splash pad at Hafen Park. The vote came despite a standing room crowd in the council chambers that was mostly in support of the splash pad.
Mayor Mark Wier was not in attendance at the May 13 council meeting, and Mayor Pro-tem Geno Withelder assumed the responsibilities of mayor.
One of several Mesquite residents who testified, Jennifer Tichnor told the council that she was “Looking forward to getting the kids off the couch and away from video games, and I believe the splash pad would be a great addition and an attraction to visitors to our community.”
Todd Leavitt, representing the sole bidder on the splash pad, Trade West Construction of Mesquite, questioned Councilman Al Litman’s comments at a previous council meeting where he listed several splash pad projects done by other cities for considerably less money. Leavitt listed the differences between the projects named by Litman and the Mesquite splash pad and suggested that Litman and public officials “Should be careful what they say in public… as it could be libelous.”
Donna Phelps told the council that contrary to rumors in the community “I don’t think the older citizens of Mesquite are against the splash pad, I think what we are against are the overruns. Phelps added, I don’t think the people here tonight are aware of where the budget for this will come from.” Phelps urged the council to bring the project back so that “We can be comfortable with the project.”
In council discussion councilors George Rapson and Kraig Hafen spoke to the need for the splash pad, and their concern that if the bid was not approved there was a possibility that the city would lose the federal funding for the project.
Councilor Rich Green also said he wanted the splash pad built but was concerned about the bid being over budget. “This is a Cadillac plan maybe we could do with a Chevrolet,” said Green.
The vote was not without controversy and some confusion, as the listed agenda item was a vote to override the veto last month by mayor Wier, not a new vote on whether or not to accept the sole bid by Trade West Construction of Mesquite. Wier’s veto was of a failed motion to award the contract.
Councilor Hafen asked city attorney Cheryl Hunt “Can the mayor veto a motion that failed?” Councilor Litman also questioned whether a vote to override the veto was appropriate, “If the mayor can veto a motion that failed… he can do what he wants a yes vote is a no and a no vote is a yes.”
City attorney Hunt then asked for a short recess of the council to discuss “Legal matters.” After a few minutes, the council returned and Hafen moved to approve the bid. The vote was two to two with Hafen and Councilman George Rapson voting yes and Councilmen Rich Green and Al Litman voting no.
The tie vote gave Withelder as the acting mayor the deciding vote, and he voted no. “I want to bring the issue back when we have five councilors,” said Withelder.
In public testimony after the vote, residents Dave West and David Ballweg questioned whether the vote was legal, as the council agenda listed a vote on overriding the mayor’s veto, not a new vote on the bid.
The issue is not over as all the councilors expressed support for a splash pad, but not the cost of the proposed project. The single bid received was over $150,000 over the city engineer’s estimate according to city staff. Public Works Director Bill Tanner told the council that the bid proposal had been sent out twice and the city only received the one bid each time.
Options for the council include another vote on bid as received, or reworking the project to reduce the cost in line with the engineer’s estimate.