Out with the old at Ford Park

Ford Pavilion

On the eve of a deadline to give word to current Ford Park Entertainment Complex management company SMG as to Jefferson County’s intent to either keep the management team they’ve been with for 15 years or sign with a competitor, Jefferson County Commissioner Everett “Bo” Alfred reported that not only have both companies been informed of the county’s decision, but a tentative contract from new management provider Spectra was in the hands of Purchasing Director Deborah Clark as of Wednesday, Oct. 12. While not yet open for public scrutiny, Alfred said the proposed contract would be available once finalized. 

However, securing a signed contract may not be a short turnaround, he added.

The original deadline to give intent to renew or quit with SMG was Oct. 1, but a request was placed to extend that deadline when County Judge Jeff Branick could not be present to vote on the contract’s award in time to meet the first of the month target. At that time, purchasing agent Clark recommended to the remainder of the elected county leaders on Commissioners Court that the deadline be extended roughly two weeks to give a cushion for ensuring proper notification. Commissioners approved the deadline change, but were adamant that the process not be unnecessarily delayed.

A week later, the entire panel was at the dais, including County Judge Branick, and precinct commissioners Eddie Arnold, Brent Weaver, Michael “Shane” Sinegal, and Alfred. Arnold, Sinegal and Alfred took the majority vote on a motion to award Ford Park’s management contract to SMG’s competitor, Spectra. According to scoring tabulations by an evaluation committee appointed by members of the commissioners court, Spectra was the top choice based on its submissions to the county’s request for proposals.

Still, what was proposed in the response to the request for proposal and the best and final offer may not be the final contract inked between the county and a new management firm to oversee operations at the public/private venue subsidized by taxpayers – up to now roughly $2 million annually, not including millions more in grants paid through our area’s hotel tax fees. According to Alfred, he and fellow commissioners want to see more accountability from the county-backed venture.

“We’re not going to stand there and let what happened in the past happen again,” he said. “The things of the past, we had noting to say about it. With this, we have everything to say about it.”

From the start, Alfred said the county’s attorneys will be on board, and he hopes to utilize the knowledge and expertise at the county’s disposal to work out a deal for a management team to take over at Ford Park with a better benefit to the public than what was inked before. Should the new team not live up to their promises after the five-year contract expires, then Alfred and others are of the impression that the county should move on to the next bidder.

“What’s good for the taxpayers of Jefferson County is where my vote went, and where my vote will always go,” Alfred said. “Change is good, and we’re moving on. And if this company doesn’t do what they say they’re going to do, we’ll move on again.

“It’s a new day at Ford Park – and it’s a new day in Jefferson County.”

SMG’s contract with the county expires in March 2017. The company previously told commissioners that they had secured a visit to the Ford Park complex by the nationally aired “Price is Right” game show for the same month, but the venue’s website does not show the booking or allow for ticket purchase.