State purchases furniture for legislative staff worth $ 918,000

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Jack brammer

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Hundreds of employees of Kentucky lawmakers in the State Capitol and the Capitol Annex in Frankfurt have new office furniture at a cost of $ 918,813.88 to state taxpayers.

Mike Wynn, spokesperson for Legislative Research Commission, the bureaucratic arm of the Kentucky General Assembly, said the purchase of 322 non-partisan staff was needed.

“In short, we’ve reached a tipping point,” Wynn said. “Our furniture is over ten years old and many items have suffered significant wear and tear over the years. It is now cheaper to replace these items than to repair them.

The new furniture included desks, office chairs, side chairs and bookcases. Fifty executive offices were purchased for $ 1,349 each, while other types of office ranged from $ 667 to $ 1,239. Over 290 bookcases were purchased for $ 815 each and 276 guest chairs for $ 339 each.

Wynn said no new furniture has been purchased for the lawmakers and their 64 partisan employees, but additional furniture could be purchased to accommodate the upcoming LRC occupation of additional office space on the west end of the annex of the Capitol.

The Herald-Leader reported in September that legislative leaders are forcing 170 state executive employees out of the Capitol Annex to make more room for lawmakers and their employees.

Executive employees move to Kentucky Transport cabinet Office building on Mero Street in downtown Frankfurt. Jill Midkiff, State Spokesperson Cabinet of Finance and Administration, said the cost of the move will not be known until it is completed.

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The halls of the Kentucky Capitol Annex were recently lined with boxes of over $ 900,000 worth of furniture for the Legislative Research Commission staff. Jack brammer [email protected]

No competitive offer

The purchase was not tendered, nor was it made through framework tendering agreements that the State has entered into with several suppliers of office furniture.

Jim Waters, president and CEO of curator Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, questioned whether the LRC had gotten the best deal they could for new furniture.

“I know office furniture is expensive these days, but I’d like to know how it happened,” Waters said. “I think we need bidding for products across state government.”

LRC’s Wynn said the furniture purchase was approved by LRC Director Jay Hartz “as part of the agency’s normal operations.” Legislative leaders appointed Hartz, former deputy chief of staff to Senate Speaker Robert Stivers, to head the agency in May 2019.

Wynn said the LRC “has contacted several vendors to discuss the scope of the project.

“However, due to production limitations and supply chain issues, most were unable to meet our deadline before the 2022 legislative session. Our Louisville-based supplier, with whom we have previously purchased furniture, was the only one able to meet the deadline, so we entered into a non-competitive negotiation.

Midkiff, of the finance firm, said the state negotiates volume discounts on a wide variety of goods and services, including furniture, through the solicitation and award of framework agreements. tender.

“These framework agreements can be used by all levels of government, including the legislature and the judiciary, as well as city and county governments, political subdivisions, universities and quasi-government agencies not subject” to the laws. in public procurement, she said.

“The increased purchasing power achieved through these framework agreements saves Kentucky taxpayers millions of dollars each year,” she said. “To the firm’s knowledge, LRC did not take advantage of these statewide competitive bidding framework agreements for its recent major furniture purchase.”

In response, Wynn said the office furniture maker previously had a framework agreement with the state, but it has expired.

He said that the seller and the manufacturer eventually agreed to a price in accordance with the United States General Service Administration schedule, “meaning the price was at least as good, if not better, than what would have been available under a state framework agreement “.

The GSA Schedule is a government contract with commercial enterprises providing federal, state and local government buyers with access to over 11 million commercial supplies (products) and services at volume discounted prices.

Midkif noted that the state has around 1,000 framework agreements “of which 10 of them relate to furniture”.

Problems with the new offices

All new offices purchased by the LRC fit into the planned offices, but some staff had to rearrange their office location as the size of the new office varied from the size of the old one.

He said some new offices have been moved to workspaces in other areas of the annex and will be replaced with appropriately sized offices from the next production. All new offices will be paired with an office or workspace once the project is completed.

So far, only two new offices have had to be moved to other areas of the annex, Wynn said. “We identified several others that were not properly configured for the spaces provided. But we have worked with our supplier to stop production on 45 offices, which we can make changes to before final production. This will give us plenty of options to ensure that every workspace is matched with a suitable desk.

When asked if this would increase the cost, Wynn said, “At the moment we are not sure due to many factors that will affect the final cost of the project. We’re probably going to change the size and shape of the 45 desks waiting to be produced, and that will change the cost. “

He said the LRC “will be able to mitigate costs by adjusting any future purchases related to our expansion into the Annex. We can also purchase surplus furniture from the Cabinet des Finances, if the Cabinet wishes to leave existing furniture in the space it is vacating. All of these factors will have an effect.

The furniture was purchased from Interior Design and Architecture of Louisville and Response Marketing Modern Office of Eden Prairie, Minn.

According to documents obtained through the state’s Open Records Act, the LRC paid Interior Design $ 848,637.88 for desks, chairs and bookcases. The cost included $ 56,981.60 for delivery and installation.

The invoice to Response Marketing for the chairs was $ 70,176.

Wynn said a few parts were damaged during shipping, “but LRC receives replacement parts at no additional cost. Otherwise, we are not aware of any quality problem.

Greg Woosley, general counsel for the LRC, said most of the replaced furniture has been disposed of in accordance with state surplus procedures, while some of the old furniture has been kept for future use.

The Finance Cabinet Surplus property division receives and redistributes surplus federal and state personal property. It offers a variety of products to eligible buyers, including office furniture.

Jack Brammer is the Frankfurt bureau chief for the Lexington Herald-Leader. He has been covering Kentucky politics and government since May 1978. He holds a master’s degree in communications from the University of Kentucky and is originally from Maysville, Ky.
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