no-bid contracts raise eyebrows, ire
An area man is demanding answers from local government following recent allegations of no-bid deals.
Mark Zeiger is a committed family man, a devoted community member, and—until recently—the custodian of the annual neighborhood garage sale signage.
“I was as surprised as anybody,” Zeiger said, recalling his Tuesday trek to the main entrance of the Four Lakes subdivision. “I headed out there with the signs day after Memorial day just like I have for the last six years. I was kinda [irritated] to see them new signs already up.”
Zeiger quickly made calls to his wife, brother-in-law, and two neighbors who also live in the subdivision. The common response was shock, anger, and confusion.
“We were all worked up,” Zeiger continued. “But nobody had any idea where these fancy new signs came from. There was three of them, all along University [Blvd.] at each of the entrance displays, where I usually hang our signs.”
A dejected Zeiger returned home, still bearing his time-worn, hand-crafted signs. Determined to hang at least one sign, Zeiger sought out a stretch of fence near the back entrance to the subdivision.
“I had a duty to perform, a tradition to uphold,” said Zeiger. “I’m not the kind of guy that buckles in the face of adversity. One sign at the back entrance means the tradition lives on. We never hung signs there before since mostly residents use that entrance and they all know when the sale is anyway. But it’s the principle of the thing that counts.”
a tradition and a symbol
Zeiger’s signs date back to the 2004 observance of the annual garage sale. The signage was not commissioned, nor was Zeiger reimbursed for the cost of materials.
“I saw a need and I filled it,” Zeiger explained. “Simple as that. After what happened in 2003, I knew we’d need some advertising to rebound in ’04.”
The 2003 sale is remembered for its exceptionally poor turnout. Locals differ in opinion as to the reason for the 2003 flop, but most agreed with Zeiger’s assertion that the number of competing garage sales in neighboring subdivisions dramatically increased around that time.
“Sales started cropping up everywere in ’02 and ’03,” Zeiger recalled. “Saturday after Memorial Day is prime time, as everyone knows. Other neighborhoods were putting up signs, getting the word out. We’d always had such a great turnout without any signs, I guess nobody here had thought that we should advertise too.”
The annual Four Lakes sale rebounded with record-high turnout in 2004. Because Zeiger’s signs contained no specific date, Zeiger was able to save them for reuse in 2005.
“I’d like to tell you I was thinking ahead,” he laughed. “The truth is, by the time we’d written out ‘Garage Sale’ and ’50 homes’ we barely had room to put the day and time. If we’d put the actual date on there we would have had to make a new one every year. Saved a lot of time and resources this way. I would have been happy to do it, but I’m glad I didn’t have to.”
“Maybe it was karma,” he added with a wink.
Not only did Zeiger reuse his signs in 2005—he dutifully stowed them away and brought them back out every year since. “You can call it being ‘green’ or environmentally friendly,” Zeiger said, “but I like to think of it as being frugal. Fiscally responsible. That’s what garage sales are all about anyway, so I thought it was kind of symbolic at the same time. That’s what was so upsetting when these expensive-looking, professionally-made signs showed up this year. It destroyed a neighborhood tradition and a neighborhood symbol in one fell swoop.”
searching for answers
Zeiger spent most of this week on the phone, trying to learn more about the rogue signage that had infiltrated the community. It wasn’t until Thursday, however, that he received the tip he’d been looking for.
“It was an anonymous call. Private number. Just said they were ‘a concerned neighbor’ and that I ought to take a look at the records and find out who paid for these new signs—and if there were any competing bids on the contract. Then they hung up.”
Despite numerous calls to government agencies on every level, Zeiger has not uncovered the truth about the no-bid allegations.
“They’re stonewalling me,” he explained. “Not uncommon. Nothing from the city, the mayor, the police. But I’ll go higher if I need to. In fact, my brother-in-law is drafting a letter to our congresspersons right now.”
Time will tell if this sordid tale has a no-bid underbelly.
For those who doubt, Zeiger has this closing remark: “Who paid for it? The same folks who always pay for it. You and me. The taxpayer, that’s who. Signs that fancy don’t come cheap. Looks like a hundred-dollar toilet seat. Or a five-hundred-dollar hammer.”