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City Parks Director Defends Smale Construction Process

Credit Bill Rinehart / WVXU

Cincinnati park officials say there was nothing illegal, immoral or unethical about the way Smale Riverfront Park was constructed.

A recent Cincinnati Enquirer article questioned why some of the construction work was done without contract bidding.

Parks Director Willie Carden told a council committee Monday that officials followed city guidelines that were in place until June 2015, after current phases of the park were completed.

Carden said they are working with the city's new purchasing official.

"He presented to us that there were some challenges with the process that was used back then," Carden said. "But that was then, this is now and we will go forward and be trained and use the proper procedures from this point forward."

Park officials built portions of Smale Park using master service agreements, which are bid for a specific type of work like concrete, electric and landscaping. But those contractors are not bidding to do work on certain projects.

A recent city memo suggested using such agreements for large scale construction contracts was inappropriate.

Council Member Charlie Winburn said the city should end the use of such agreements.

"I think these master service agreements have been used as a buddy system," Winburn said. "To take care of friends and other folk, and I think it's dangerous.  And I think we probably need to get out of master service agreements altogether and everything should be competitively bid."

Officials also said using master service agreements allowed portions of the park to be completed in time for last year's MLB All-Star Game.

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