GIBSON CITY — In a series of Facebook posts this week, Gibson City Mayor Dan Dickey defended the city council’s plan to skip the bidding process and hire a local company for $65,000 to add public Wi-Fi and a speaker system to the downtown.
Dickey was responding to an anonymous letter that was sent to specific community members. The letter criticized the proposal and accused city officials of violating Illinois law.
“It was just full of misinformation, half-truths, innuendo,” Dickey told the Ford County Record on Friday.
According to Dickey, the letter claimed that the city was pursuing the addition of public Wi-Fi downtown because “a handful of business owners want Wi-Fi within their stores.” Currently, Gibson City has free wireless internet access only at its parks and City Hall.
Dickey responded by noting that the Wi-Fi downtown would not be “suitable for businesses to use for themselves” for two reasons: (1) it will not be a secure network and (2) people will be limited to an hour or two of Wi-Fi usage per IP address per day.
“It is totally designed to be used by the public only,” Dickey stressed.
The letter also criticized the city council’s intention to not solicit bids for the project and instead hire MCS Office Technologies of Gibson City. Under state law, a city can avoid advertising for bids for projects that exceed $25,000 in cost and instead hire a company of its choice as long as two-thirds of its city council authorizes it.
While Dickey said he believes most projects exceeding $25,000 should go through the bidding process and be awarded to the “lowest, responsible bidder,” he feels this project should not — and for a number of reasons, including:
— The city would likely need to spend an additional $8,000 to $12,000 “just to have an engineer duplicate what’s already been done to put a bid package together, not counting the advertising costs.”
— For years, MCS has maintained the city’s existing internet, Wi-Fi and security systems via a service contract with the city, and the addition of public Wi-Fi would be “covered by the exact same service contract.”
— MCS is a local company and would likely be more responsive in correcting issues that may arise.
— MCS is capable of completing the project on its own, without hiring any subcontractors. “It’s hard to find a company that does all of that stuff,” Dickey said. “I’m guessing that if we bid it out, we’d probably get contractors that would have to hire other people to do part of it. MCS, though, can do the whole thing.”
Dickey said seven of the city council’s eight aldermen have indicated to him that they would vote in favor of hiring MCS instead of soliciting bids. Dickey said he had not yet been able to contact the eighth alderman.
The council is scheduled to meet in special session at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall to take a vote. Prior to the vote, MCS representatives will give a presentation.
In an email, Dickey urged members of the Gibson Area Chamber of Commerce to attend the meeting to voice their opinions and show support for the project.
Besides adding several Wi-Fi access points downtown, the proposed project would involve the addition of a three-part speaker system between 7th and 10th streets along Sangamon Avenue. The speaker system’s 24-28 speakers would be used to play soft music, make public announcements and broadcast advertisements from local businesses, churches, schools and organizations.
MCS has recommended the city have the sound system installed prior to the annual Lighted Christmas Parade in mid-November.