San Marcos Fire Department Chief Les Stephens talks with the San Marcos City Council about the cost of furnishing a new fire station. Photo by Andy Sevilla.
By ANDY SEVILLA
On the heels of a downward sales tax intake for the seventh straight month, the San Marcos City Council approved more than $50,000 in expenditures to furnish the new San Marcos Fire Department (SMFD) station, and SMFD Chief Les Stephens said more money will be needed for more furniture.
At their Tuesday night meeting, councilmembers unanimously approved $58,579.97 to furnish offices for the SMFD chief, assistant chief, training chief, and department secretary’s offices. The expenditure also includes furniture for the conference room, training room, kitchen, and miscellaneous seating areas at the station, for which ground was broken just more than a year ago at 100 Carlson Circle.
The council initially allocated $100,000 for fixtures, furniture, and equipment (FF&E) for the $5 million fire station. As of the end of Tuesday’s council meeting, only $58,579.97 has been expended. But Stephens told councilmembers that he forecasts exceeding the budgeted $100,000 when all the furnishings have been purchased, and that the fire department will have to dip into contingency funds.
Councilmember Ryan Thomason, in only the second meeting on the council, removed the matter from the consent agenda to bring a discussion into open session. If the item hadn’t been pulled, it would have been decided, along with the other consent items, in a single motion without discussion.
Thomason voiced concern over the amount certain products cost, and suggested finding those same products at lower price. Thomason specifically pointed to the three $600 armchairs among the new purchases.
“I want (the new fire station) to be nice, don’t get me wrong,” Thomason said. “I want good quality, but this seems like a lot of money.”
Said councilmember John Thomaides, “When government is buying (products), we must have sucker written on our forehead, because everything is so much more expensive.”
Included in the purchase are three $600.16 armchairs, seven $764.39 recliners, three $647.48 black table trucks with blue bumpers, one $4,159.58 rectangular conference room table, four $145.92 stools, two $277.68 two-drawer file cabinets, three $694 personal wardrobe/storage cabinets, and several Park Avenue Series products.
Thomason asked if any research for products had been done locally, and if comparable products could have been found at a San Marcos dealer such as North Carolina Furniture Direct or Office Depot for lower prices.
Stephens said he had personally visited furniture showrooms in San Antonio and Austin, but none in San Marcos. Stephens added, though, that he did not initiate the process and is unaware of the research completed under interim Fire Chief Len Nored. Stephens, who was sworn in as fire chief last August, went on to say that some of the pricier products could have been found at more cost-effective prices, but added that he doesn’t “believe that Office Depot or anyone like that is going to have something of comparable value.”
Stephens said that original bid for the products approved this week started at $80,000, and that Nored was able to get it down to the $58,579.97 figure. Stephens added that Nored has “been very diligent.”
Thomason again stressed the necessity of researching local businesses and even suggested sending an itemized list of the products to local vendors to develop a price comparison with the Austin-based Furniture For Business store from which the SMFD made the new purchase.
Though councilmembers voted unanimously to approve the expenditure, they also advised Stephens to research local businesses for future purchases before turning to Austin and San Antonio.
“If we’re going to spend tax payer money, we need to try and spend it here,” Narvaiz said.Email | Print