Sunday, Dec. 6, 2009 | 2 a.m.
A question arose during the Clark County commissioners meeting Tuesday that sounded like a joke: How many interior designers does it take to assemble an office cubicle?
Well, how many does it take?
Apparently, just one, but they charge five times as much as a maintenance man — $55 an hour.
Why does the county pay interior designers to assemble cubicles?
To answer that question, one must delve into the heart and soul of government bureaucracy, a place Commissioner Steve Sisolak tried to disassemble with questions that didn’t always come with easy answers. Sisolak’s style is to pull items off the county’s “consent agenda,” which is a list of dozens of purchases and other decisions that county commissioners approve or neglect all at one time. Sometimes, though, a commissioner — usually Sisolak — wants to examine one of the matters more closely. That’s what happened at this week’s meeting. It was Agenda Item 6, for those following at home on the county’s cable TV channel or on the Web at accessclarkcounty.com.
What was it about?
On its face, nothing exciting — the warehouse storage of office furniture. Commissioners were asked to approve a fourth amendment to a contract with Haworth Inc., a Michigan furniture supplier and designer. The contract began in April 1999. An amendment in 2003 increased the “design service rate;” another in February 2008 added the warehousing of furniture. Another in December 2008 increased the square footage of warehousing to 2,850. And this new amendment was to increase the storage space to 7,850 square feet. All of that storage space has to be paid for by the county, mind you, which means taxpayers.
How much does it cost to store?
A county spokeswoman said it is 95 cents a square foot, or $7,457.50 per month for 7,850 square feet.
Seems cheap. What’s so wrong about it?
County officials are cutting everywhere they possibly can because in the next year the county expects a shortfall of more than $120 million in tax revenues. Sisolak’s mantra for several months has been not only to cut costs but to be sure the county is looking closely at local companies to do the work that the county has typically given to out-of-state companies. Local companies keep the money in Nevada.
“And I don’t like buying from a sole source,” Sisolak said after the meeting. “We get stuck with them now, because we have to make sure the holes in the furniture match up. We’ve been buying from them going on 11 years and no one else gets a chance.”
County staff also told Sisolak they are storing unused furniture so they don’t have to purchase more when future needs arise. Stored furniture was used, in fact, to outfit two whole floors at University Medical Center.
Why does the county have to spend $55 an hour on an interior designer to take apart and put together office furniture?
Yolanda Jones, purchasing manager, told commissioners that “it’s required by state law that we pay an interior designer to come up and put up mobile partitions.”
She cited two statutes, NRS 623.180 and 623.192. Sisolak later said he looked at them but couldn’t see how they force the county to use interior designers for the cubicle work. The statutes are about qualifications required of interior designers seeking certificates of registration.
A county spokeswoman told the Sun that a county attorney is looking into the matter.
What about the amount of storage space? Seems like 7,850 square feet is an awful lot of space for disassembled office furniture. Where’s the warehouse and how much is in there?
The company doing the storage is called Faciliteq Architectural Interiors, with an address of 817 S. Main St. Sisolak said he asked county staff if he could go look at what is stored. He said he was surprised that “they told me that might not be doable right away.”
In the meantime, he said, he is going to get an inventory of what’s being stored.
CORRECTION: This story was changed to correct that Yolanda Jones was the person who addressed county commissioners on the hiring of an interior designer. | (December 7, 2009)