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Keeping an eye on the city's best interests

Friday, November 08, 2013 - Updated: 6:16 AM

Are some vendors more equal than others? One could think that's the case in the city of Amsterdam.

On Wednesday, the Common Council extended deals with the operators of a cafe at Riverlink Park and the Amsterdam Mohawks, who play at Shuttleworth Park.

The agreement followed complaints form Laura Elmendorf, who runs the concessions at the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course. Her issue is that she pays much more to run her business at the golf course and is responsible for much more than the Mohawks and the cafe owners.

She has a valid point.

Granted, all three vendors who operate at the publicly owned facilities voluntarily signed their deals. If the agreement is a sweetheart arrangement -- as it appears to be at Shuttle-worth and Riverlink -- we don't blame them for signing it.

We do wonder if city officials are looking out for Amsterdam's best interests when they draw up these deals.

At the Riverlink Cafe, the owners pay $2,000 annually to the city, but they get to keep everything they make from the meals served. They also get to keep the docking fees from visiting boaters. In addition, the city buys all the fixtures at the restaurant, pays the utilities, and picks up the trash.

At Shuttleworth, the Mohawks are responsible for a $5,000 annual fee but essentially play for free because of a $40,000 credit that covers it. The baseball club does maintain the field at its own expense, but the city provides materials. City Hall also provides all the amenities such as seating and lights at the park, along with picking up the garbage and cutting the grass.

And just like the cafe, the city doesn't get anything from concession or entertainment proceeds at Shuttleworth -- those all go to the Mohawks.

It's a different story at the golf course. Elmendorf pays $27,000 a year to run the clubhouse. She also pays for her utilities and trash removal, along with buying and maintaining a majority of the kitchen's equipment.

Elmendorf also has another legitimate beef. Her deal runs out at the end of the year, and she's going to have to bid on another one, possibly in competition with other potential bidders. The Mohawks and Riverlink Cafe owners had their contracts extended without them being opened to a competitive bidding process.

We understand there's more to maintaining a livable community than just dollars and cents. The Mohawks, the Riverlink Cafe and the golf course all contribute to improving Amster-dam's quality of life.

But officials have a responsibility to look out for the city's best interests, and that means treating all vendors fairly and as equals. The same standards should be applied across the board when it comes to contracts of this type.

     

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