Court puts rec center decision on hold

Verdict expected by end of the week

Posted: Wednesday, July 09, 2003

The Kenai Recreational Center's fate is on hold as a judge decides whether to grant an injunction to block the center's new management contract.

Judge Harold Brown heard arguments Tuesday concerning whether a partnership between the city of Kenai and the Boys and Girls Club of the Kenai Peninsula to manage the recreation center violates the city's competitive bid ordinance.

Brown said he would return a verdict at the end of the week.

The Friends of the Recreation Center group sued the city last month to block the partnership, after filing a referendum petition to have voters decide if the club should run the center. As the result of a slim city budget, management of the center was turned over to the club at the beginning of this month to eliminate costs associated with staffing and maintenance.

In Tuesday's hearing, the group's attorney, John Havelock, said the city violated its own ordinance which requires competitive bidding when outsourcing services and called the three-year deal the city entered into with the club a "sweetheart contract."

"There are no performance criteria," Havelock said. "This sort of open-ended, no-accountability is a feature of a sweetheart contract. It all is based on trust."

He suggested that the court allow the contract to continue temporarily, however, until city officials could go through the bidding process.

City attorney Cary Graves argued the city exercised an exemption that allows professional services to be contracted without going out to bid.

Brown asked why the club's services would be considered professional and asked if the city could enter into the temporary agreement Havelock recommended.

"Facility management is a professional service," Graves an-swered, citing cases in which the city had previously outsourced such services.

These examples include contracts the city has with the Kenai Visitors and Convention Bureau to manage the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center and with ESI Inc. to manage the PRISM fire-training school.

Graves said City Manager Linda Snow filed for the recreation center exemption with the understanding that it followed the same principles as the previous contracts.

Graves said the city possibly could make adjustments to the contract with the club.

"I suppose we could, if the court approved it," he said. "We would have to amend the budget."

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