CHIPLEY — Of the three consultants making presentations before the Chipley City Council only one brought a slide show with them — and a budget line-item of $400,000 from the State Legislature.
Doug Bruce and Associates of Tallahassee was ranked the number one choice of the three firms seeking the city’s business on Thursday night in a special council meeting, with Fred Fox Enterprises of St. Augustine being ranked second and David H. Melvin Inc of Marianna ranking third.
“What you are doing tonight is ranking them in order of one, two and three, with one being the first choice,” City Administrator Dan Miner explained to the council. Grants require the city to have a choice of consultants chosen in case there is a conflict and a replacement is needed.
After the meeting, Miner would contact the firms and let them know the results.
“Then what we will do is task them to start looking for funding,” Miner said. “Tasking and hiring are two different things.” He said the city would be spending no money up front in the process.
“Mr. Bruce has got connections,” Council Member Karen Rustin said. “He works with Tom Bryant, and Tom also has contacts in companies that he can bring to the table.”
She also said that Bruce went “above and beyond” in working with the city and the Legislature to get the line-item appropriation for $400,000.
The consultants get paid by taking a percentage of the grant money they acquire for the city, and that percentage is negotiated between the consulting firm and the city.
H. Douglas Bruce first appeared before the council on Feb. 20 when he was asked by Mayor Linda Cain to explain different ways the city could raise money to update the city’s aging water system and to extend water service to south of Interstate 10.
The first step, Bruce explained, is to secure the services of a consulting firm. He recommended the city publish a Request For Qualifications and begin the process of searching for a consultant.
The council agreed and voted to proceed with the preparation of an RFQ, and Thursday night the council heard presentations from firms that had responded to the advertisement.
During Bruce’s presentation he showed the council a slide of the State Legislature’s current budget, which includes a $400,000 line-item for the city of Chipley to use toward water system repairs.
The budget item was there because Bruce had arranged for Council Member Lee Dell Kennedy and Miner to travel to Tallahassee and meet with the budget committee to discuss the city’s water system problems.
The budget has been passed by the House and the Senate, and will next go to Gov. Rick Scott for final approval.
Cain said the governor’s office had contacted the city for more information about the request.
“We should know in a few weeks whether or not he signs off on it,” the mayor said of the budget.
Mayor Cain abstained from voting on any of the consulting firms due to a conflict of interest. She said she had relatives that worked for one of the firms and therefore she did not participate in the selection process.
“We see our role as providing a way to get funding for these important projects,” Bruce said of his consulting firm.
Bruce discussed not only getting water service to south of I-10, but also repairing and replacing leaky pipes to make the city’s water system more efficient. He pointed out that in 2012 the city lost nearly 30 percent of its water due to leaks.
“If you had a gas station and you lost 30 percent of your gas, you’d go out of business really quick,” Bruce said.