Douglas Officials Will Ask Attorneys For Help In Creating A Policy For Leasing Public Property & Facilities To Vendors; Current Root Beer Barrel Leasee Wants Long-Term Deal
Douglas city officials Monday night said they will continue to explore—with the aid of legal counsel, via the law firm Plunkett Cooney—creating a policy for leasing public property and facilities vis-à-vis vendors.
That decision came following several shared concerns from constituents and some colleagues that the lease for the use of the historic and iconic root beer barrel for a food concession this past summer was conducted without a bidding process, thereby not providing other vendors a fair shot.
Douglas City Manager Bill LeFevere shared with council that the important notion to keep in mind in the city’s relationship with the vendors/leaseholders and weighing the fairness of any bidding process or lack thereof—whether its Running River Kayak Rentals at Wade’s Bayou or the concession at the root beer barrel—is a balance of “private advantage” and “public purpose.”
LeFevere further commented that it is not usual for cities to select a particular vendor, considering various factors (i.e., reputation, history, experience, etc.), over another or choosing one on a case-by-case basis.
No matter what policy city council will eventually choose moving forward, LeFevere said, “We need to make sure what we do is fair and consistent.”
However, not all were in agreement.
“As a government entity, it behooves us to act as such. I do believe we should send them out (the barrel lease agreement and others) for bids,” said Douglas City Manager Patricia Lion.
“I understand (my colleagues), ‘We know you (Michael White, the barrel lease holder from this past summer). You (White) are from the community, but that is not the way we run government.”
The city in late summer awarded White the lease. He recently asked the city for a multi-year lease permit because, he indicated, that will provide him with economic stability in the future and be able to take advantage of his investment.
White ran a very successful business, serving long lines of people his root beer and hot dogs, just as the now refurbished barrel operation did in its postwar years, from the 1950s until the mid-1970s.
City officials said that it was the city which initially went to White for the original lease agreement, only after having sought other vendors. Those vendors, however, did not want to commit to the project because there is no water and sewer service at the site.
However, officials said they plan on running water to it in the near future.