I was cruising the Apopka City website the other day and found something interesting. Under the Business Tab of the home page, I went into the RFQ/RFP section and was surprised to see RFQ 1 there, “Request for Qualifications: Retail Development Strategy and Marketing Services”. The RFQ is due tomorrow, January 4th at 3:00 pm from bidders and negotiations with the selected consultant are to begin on Friday Jan 8th. Apparently, the City is looking for a vendor to conduct a retail market analysis and development strategy that will mesh with the City’s adopted vision from the visioning process. Three areas of our City are to be included: The Wekiva Parkway area (Kelly Park); the area near the new hospital and yes, the Downtown area (the Apopka Town Center).
Now according to the RFQ for the Visioning Process that was went out last March, within the Scope of Services section of that RFQ, was an expectation for the consultant to prepare a Strategic Plan to include a 5 year action plan guiding City resources and organizational priorities. This 5 year plan is referenced several times within the RFQ. I have not seen the final contract for the Visioning process so, I do not know if this 5 year plan was included in the final contract. I do remember the general conclusion of this expensive process was that citizens of Apopka want nice restaurants and shops and were sick of dollar stores, auto parts stores and Taco Bells. It took $125,000.00 of taxpayer money to come to the same conclusion that swept a new Mayor and two new City Commissioners into office in 2014. That same section of the RFQ promised a workshop to review the results, which was held December 9, and a 2nd meeting or hearing be scheduled so the City could adopt the final vision statement and Strategic plan. To my knowledge that 2nd meeting has not taken place yet, nor is it on the January 6th meeting agenda. So back to the RFQ noted above, how can a request for services to build on the adopted visioning strategies be made when it does not appear the Visioning Plan has actually been “adopted” by the City Commission?
Key on this RFQ is the Compensation section found on pg 4. I quote, “Initial tasks may be based on work less than $25,000.00 to comply with purchasing requirements”. As we found out with the “Apopka begins and ends with an A” project, the Mayor can expend up to $25,000 of City funds WITHOUT having to come to Council (ie. elected taxpayer representatives) for approval. Hmmm.. According to the Tentative Timeline of the RFQ, the finalist will be announced and presented to the City Commission at the January 19th meeting, presumably after the first $25,000.00 check has already been cut, very similar to the way the Mayor’s education program was handled just a few months ago. Is the City skirting the dollar limit to avoid having to answer questions? Are we seeing the beginnings of a new strategy the City will employ to avoid taxpayer scrutiny?
Other questions: Why the rush on this? What will be the final price tag for THIS project? Where in the budget is the money coming from? I thought for $125,000.00, we were supposed to get this retail analysis and strategy via the consultants from the visioning process. Was I wrong? As a taxpayer, I gotta ask these questions. Because right now, the only thing I am envisioning for our City is parade of never ending expensive reports, studies and consultants, while only giving the illusion that things are getting done.