HUNTERSVILLE – A divided Huntersville town board decided Monday that it wants to test the open market to see if other companies will compete for the contract to manage the Huntersville Family Fitness & Aquatic center.
But during a protracted discussion, commissioners voting on both sides of the decision to seek “requests for qualifications” – the technical name of the bid specifications – said they are not making any comment on the work of the current management firm, Health & Sports Works Inc.
Ron Julian, one of three commissioners who supported initiating the bid process, had high praise for the job Health & Sports Works has done.
Commissioner Beth “Danae” Caulfield, who made the motion for the town staff to begin the bid process, said she feels an obligation to act “as good stewards of the taxpayers’ money,” and she hopes Health & Sports Works will bid.
Commissioner Ken Lucas, the third commissioner to support the motion, said the town might find no other companies willing to try to take over the town-owned facility, which has sparked much debate through the years. “We don’t know what’s out there until we go through this process,” he added.
The vote passed 3-2 with Mayor Pro Tem Sarah McAulay and Commissioner Charles Jeter dissenting.
McAulay called the effort to get competing bids “premature and ill advised” and likely to divert the attention of town officials and residents from more important issues.
Jeter agreed, saying the town and its staff need to focus now on investigating a bond for a new police building and approving the 2011-12 town budget. Acknowledging he has been a frequent critic of money spent on the fitness center, Jeter said he doesn’t think Health & Sports Works gets enough credit for taking the center when it was “a dog that was ready to go to the pound” and turning it around.
All board members agreed such a bid-and-negotiation process will take a long time, and the town will have to give Health & Sports Works an extension of at least a year on its current contract, which expires June 30. The board expects to discuss the extension at its upcoming retreat.
Caulfield made it clear she’s not putting any time constraints on the bidding process, and Julian said this just starts “a discussion.”
Town Manager Greg Ferguson told commissioners the staff will need at least a year to get through a competitive bidding process. The staff will likely need three to six months just to describe all the functions – including child and after-school care – taking place at Huntersville Family Fitness in the precise terms required in a request for qualifications.
If companies show interest, then town officials will likely need another six months to review those companies’ qualifications and begin negotiations with the top qualifiers.
Feb. 28 groundbreaking for ABB plant
ABB, the power and automation technology company, will hold a groundbreaking ceremony Feb. 28, on its future $90 million cable-manufacturing plant at the Commerce Station industrial park in Huntersville, according to Commissioner Julian, who represents the town on the Economic Development Commission.
The ceremony, which requires an invitation, begins in the auditorium at Central Piedmont Community College’s North Campus and will last from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Officials will then move to the nearby industrial park for the second half of the ceremony, Julian said. ABB’s North American President and CEO Enrique Santacana will speak at the ceremony.
ABB expects to employ 100 people at its Huntersville factory, which will produce underground high-voltage and extra-high voltage cables that take the place of large overhead transmission lines. The company expects to see increasing demand for such underground cable to transport power from remote renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.
ABB is a Swiss energy company that has its North American headquarters in Cary. Hiring for the new plant should begin in the second half of 2011, following plant construction. At that time, the company will post job openings at its website, www.abb.us/careers, and also at the N.C. Employment Security Commission website, www.ncesc.com.