For many months now, there has been backscatter discussions about a potential water park for northeast El Paso. It has been stated that it is to be built next to Cohen Stadium. I have previously written about the waterpark and the involvement of Wet ‘n’ Wild and an outside vendor, Hawaiian Falls. You can read my September 10, 2014 post titled “The Politics of a Waterpark for the Northeast” to be caught up on the issue.
In a nutshell, there were rumors about a possible waterpark coming to the Northeast going back to 2012. The sources of monies to build a park have been rumored to come from the Quality of Life Bonds. It wasn’t until July 1, 2014 that the city officially issued a Request for Proposals (2014-475R). The RFP closed on September 9. The city is looking for a public/private partnership whereby the city wants a share of the park revenues and lease payments from the developer.
On my October 8 post titled “Anatomy of a Public Perception Manipulation Campaign” I shared with you how there has been an active whisper campaign against Hawaiian Falls being involved with the potential water park. The most recent public manipulation activity being the “mysterious flyers” reported by KVIA on October 3, 2014, that appeared on the Eastside of town.
It is important to note that at this point all we know is that the city accepted proposals for a public/private partnership but we do not know the details involved. Therefore, we do not know whether the proposed deal is good for the city and especially for the taxpayers of the community.
All we know is that the city is entertaining a waterpark that likely involves taxpayer-owned land and possibly taxpayer monies. Because there was an open request for proposals, I decided it was time to get some concrete details so that we can start having some community discussions about the viability of such an endeavor.
Therefore, I filed an open records request with the city on October 20, 2014. Last Wednesday, November 5, 2014, the city responded by letting me know that they are asking the Texas Attorney General for a ruling that my request is “excerpted from disclosure” because releasing the records to me “would give advantage to a competitive bidder” presumably because a competitor may see the information.
What I asked for in my open records request was for “copies of the proposals for the water park (RFP2014-475R “Request for Proposals for Northeast Water/Aquatic Adventure Park”) that were received by the city as of the closing date” of the RFP.
The city argues in its letter to the attorney general “the city has yet to award the contract” for the waterpark. The city adds that it “contemplates providing economic incentives to effectuate the building of the water park, should such incentives prove to be necessary” and that it reserves the right to “reject” the proposals.
According to the copy of the letter the city sent me, the city received two bids for the project.
Although on the surface this rejection of releasing the bid information to me seems reasonable, it is important to note two important things.
First, the city has acknowledged that it is looking for a public/private partnership to build a waterpark. Second, and most important, the city held an open and competitive bidding process where presumably any company wanting to compete for a waterpark in the city would have submitted a bid to do so.
To argue that a competitor may see information that would give an advantage to a competitor seems disingenuous at best because presumably anyone capable and wanting to compete for the waterpark would have already submitted a bid to do so.
My feeling is that typically the city wants to forgo public community discussion on the expenditures of public monies until a “deal” has been cemented between the city and a potential suitor. The city, itself argues that releasing the information would “adversely affect the City’s ability in negotiating the best deal” for the potential award.
Either the city will accept one of the bids and negotiate the best possible outcome or it will reject the two bids. If the city rejects both bids then it is assumed that the deal was not beneficial to the city. Even if they go out to bid again, any information in the bids would be stale and presumably unpalatable to the city because they were rejected.
When I receive the response from the Texas Attorney General, I will update you on it. For now, keep an eye out for backscatter discussions about a waterpark for the Northeast and expenditures of taxpayers’ monies on different projects.