News - September 1, 2010

Menlo Park council dives into pool bids as five-year contract nears end

• City also seeks Belle Haven pool bids and a broader base of bidders.

by Sandy Brundage

Considering that it was a Menlo Park City Council meeting, there was little dissent among council members on Aug. 24 as they voted to request bids on the operating contract for the Burgess swimming pools.

Cherise Brandell, community services director, pointed out three areas the city needs to improve in for the next contract: better communication with the contractor, particularly around maintenance; clarification of the split between city and contractor responsibilities; and following through on preparing annual reports about the facility.

Council members Andy Cohen and Rich Cline requested that the city broadly distribute the request for proposals among possible vendors, rather than approaching only the three mentioned in the staff report: Team Sheeper, which currently runs the aquatics center; SOLO Swim Club; and California Sports Center.

"That's precisely what was missing the last time around," Mr. Cohen said, encouraging city staff to have as broad a base of bidders as possible.

Staff indicated they would try to expand the list of potential bidders

The council voted four years ago to hand over operation of the then brand new Burgess facility to Team Sheeper, a private contractor, without charging rent or putting the contract out to bid. The current lease expires in May 2011.

Mr. Cohen asked whether pool operator Tim Sheeper would now be willing to disclose his income from the past four years of running the Burgess pools.

In an apparent response, Ms. Brandell said that each proposal may include confidential sections at the request of the bidder, such as trade secrets or business plans.

When Mr. Sheeper spoke before the council, he asked that it consider lengthening the lease from five years to 10 to maintain continuity and quality of service.

Menlo Park will ask potential contractors to submit bids for the Burgess pools alone, and for both the Burgess and Belle Haven pools. Councilman John Boyle suggested that the city also ask that bids include scenarios with monthly rent and any resulting fee hikes, and minimal rent with no fee changes. City staff estimated a base monthly rent of $19,444.

The council expects to award the new contract in December.


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