What Lies Behind the Poplar Bluff Chamber’s Survey?
Here’s a survey question for you:
Do you support and encourage parents taking their child to the doctor if a broken bone is protruding from their arm or leg?
It’s a question with only one legitimate answer.
Late last week, Poplar Bluff Chamber President Steve Halter informed city council that the chamber was going to survey its members to “gauge the level of support…on the ‘shop local’ issue.”
The survey question posed to its members by the chamber reads:
Do you support City of Poplar Bluff Ordinance No. 7476 §1, 2-3-2014 http://ecode360.com/29105589 and encourage organizations such as our city and county governments and local schools/college to spend money on local, qualified firms versus out of town companies?
The survey “answer” is self-evident to the point of absurdity.
SEMO TIMES contacted City Manager Kaplan for his reaction, “I will tell you the same thing I told Mr. Halter by email. I am disappointed that the chamber does not recognize these practices as the norm. We will continue to try to keep funds local; however, I will also seek the best quality product or service for the lowest possible price.”
When asked about the survey itself, Kaplan stated he was not sure what to think. He said that two questions will not give “a full picture on where people stand” and that there seemed to be a disproportionate amount of attention placed on the city in the survey’s preamble.
The chamber distributed their survey results on Wednesday (Oct. 22) stating that 99.2% of the business community answered affirmative to the question. A full dump of the results can be found on SEMO.net.
The city’s decision to bid out their services appears to be the impetus behind the chamber’s survey. Recent bid selections have been mocked by the Rust-owned daily (see this week’s “From the Publisher’s Desk” inside front cover) and that in turn has caused a rumble within the community.
The chamber has jumped on the DAR’s bandwagon and used social media to jab at the city manager and city council.
SEMO TIMES attempted to ask Halter about the survey question. Over a period of two days, multiple attempts to contact Halter through his chamber’s office and cell phones were made. Receiving no response, our questions were sent to his chamber email address.
SEMO TIMES was also curious whether chamber members were warned that answers were not anonymous since ConstantContact.com survey system tags the users’ answers to their email address.
No response was received from the chamber.
Butler County commissioners recently selected a Mississippi-based Health Insurance firm over local MHJ Insurance’s bid. SEMO TIMES was aware of no public outcry, saw no scathing editorial, and no chamber survey questions were posed.
PB’s former city manager and the current vice-chairman of Southern Bank’s Executive Board, Doug Bagby, is currently entangled in a slander lawsuit with the city mayor, Angela Pearson. Pearson is also defending against similar claims made by MHJ Insurance whose co-owner, also, sits on the Southern Bank board.
Records show that city contracts for insurance, engineering and auditing services were frequently awarded without bid to fellow Southern Bank board members’ companies during Bagby’s city manager tenure.
Within days of taking office, Kaplan used “City Management Association best practices” and invited competitive bids for the city’s health insurance consultant, property and casualty insurance, and auditing services.
We feel for 1st Community Insurance for not being awarded the consultant bid. In speaking with Eric Wilcoxon, today, he doesn’t agree with the committee’s decision, but he accepts it and has moved on.
Prior to this year, his company has not had a chance to bid on these services. His company will submit a bid next week for the city’s property and casualty insurance and hopes that if, once again, his company has the low bid…history will not be repeated.
SEMO TIMES supports the city’s Local Preference Policy and awarding public contracts to locally-owned businesses by competitive bid wherever possible as long as the bids are equal and in compliance with all requirements.
SEMO TIMES believes that we should trust the employees who served on the committee and selected Aon after carefully grading both companies. Deputy Chief Rolland said it best, “This was a very difficult decision.” This committee’s unanimous decision to recommend the non-local bid needs to be supported by the Poplar Bluff community.
SEMO TIMES is convinced that if you peel away the layers of the chamber faux-survey, the editorial rants and community frustration, you will find that most of the drama stems from a few companies who are finally being weaned off their cash-cow teat.