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Posted: June 4, 2010 12:30 a.m.

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Sour grapes influences furniture selection for new Oxford City Hall

Unofficial minutes from a called meeting of the Oxford city council show that a grudge against former Covington Mayor Sam Ramsey’s desire to expand the Covington Municipal Airport influenced at least one vote for selecting an out of town vendor for the new city hall’s furnishings.

The adjusted bid from Ramsey’s furniture came in at $29,775 and the winning bid, Office Creations out of Suwannee came in at $41,361.29. There were two other bidders as well, both coming in higher than Ramsey’s.

Deputy Clerk Lauran S. Willis reported to the council that furniture offered by Office Creations included crown molding of real wood and that the company bids from a state contract. When council member George R. Holt asked how the bid from Ramsey’s could be so much lower than the others, council member James H. Windham said that Ramsey’s quote was more "mix-matched by bidding on what he had in his current inventory."

Windham also said, according to the unofficial minutes, that Ramsey’s bid was "much more definitive" and that the other company’s that bid were "designers and offer more continuity from a design stand point" and suggested the council put as much effort into picking the furnishings as they did into designing the building.

"Windham further expressed that, in his personal opinion, he did not like the attitude former Mayor Ramsey took toward the city of Oxford’s concerns dealing with the Covington Airport."

When questioned, Windham said "My personal feelings about the airport, and Mr. Ramsey’s role as mayor of Covington at the time, was indeed an element in my decision. It did not, in-so-far as I know, play a part in anyone else’s vote.

"Mr. Ramsey was misleading in the fact that he told us that the airplanes would be so high over our house that we would not hear them. Oxford in general, my immediate neighbors and my family have been dealing with the noise and loss of quiet enjoyment of our property ever since. Further there was a general disregard of how expansion of the airport would affect the city of Oxford, their neighbors. So I admit that I did take that into consideration when I voted."

Oxford Mayor Jerry Roseberry reminded the council that their purchasing ordinance says the city should, whenever possible, buy local and that elected officials must answer to citizens as to why they make the choices they do.

Windham added that although that was a factor it was not the only one, and that two other companies have very sophisticated presentations using a system called Auto Cad which ensured the furniture the council chose for the building would fit the space where it was needed.

"Another factor, as I understood it, a considerable portion if not all savings would have been used up by city personnel having to go to the furniture store and make selections," said Windham.

"Further one of the companies noted an omission of electrical and other wiring outlets that would have cost us as much as $50,000 or more if it had not been discovered before completion. This occurred when we moved the fire stair to the exterior of the building to gain space that would put off expansion of the building to the more distant future. This was missed by me as chair of the building committee, by the architect and the general contractor. This savings alone will pay for any furniture we select. This was not a factor per se but is indicative of how two of the companies worked closely with the city in making their proposals."

He also said the company the council chose to use provided them with a 10-year warranty on furniture made in the United States and that Ramsey’s gave no warranties on his furniture.

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