City for Sale: Part 6 – Stan’s Sports
Hoboken411 contributor estevens has provided many interesting entries in recent months. From public housing to election reports and maps – he likes digging in city records and statistics to see what doesn’t quite “look right.”
Today he looks at the hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars spent on athletic equipment and supplies from the only sporting goods store in town: Stan’s Sports Center.
Stan’s: A sole source supplier
“Balls are rolling and the money is flowing. In an average year, Hoboken’s City Hall and Board of Education will together spend nearly $400,000 on merchandise purchased at Stan’s Sport Center on Washington Street. That’s well over $30,000 worth of sporting goods purchased every month. Together, the city and schools purchase an extraordinary number of balls, uniforms, athletic supporters, trophies, whistles, and Gatorade paper cups every year.
I remember visiting Stan’s years ago. Walking in among stacks of boxes, it felt as though I’d gone straight into the storeroom. In more recent years, it seemed that they’d made an effort to make the place more appealing to the walk-in customer. Still, I’d marvel that they were able to generate enough business to pay their rent. Occasionally, the owners of quirky small businesses also own the building. Such is the case here, as the proprietor purchased the building in 2001.”
See the rest of his report, gobs of documentation – plus my take – after the jump.
(Stan’s Sports, continued…)
Big contract and contributions = ?
“In any event, I didn’t pay much attention to Stan’s until last July, when Hoboken411 ran a story about the Stan’s van that often parked out front with little regard for bus stops or street cleaning. I assumed that the proprietor was likely just another connected guy and left it at that. But Stan’s came to my attention again more recently while combing through the ELEC campaign finance reports of local politicians. Stan’s owner, Daniel DeCongelio, kept showing up with regularity. It’s not unusual for local businesses to pay tribute to the Hoboken bosses, particularly in the bar and restaurant industry. DeCongelio, however, seemed to contribute more often than most.
Since 2000, DeCongelio has contributed nearly $30,000 to Hoboken politicians and their candidate committees. DeCongelio gave $5500 to former mayor Anthony Russo’s city and school board slates in 2000-01, as well as $500 to Michael Russo in 2007. Various slates headed or supported by Mayor David Roberts received $9450 in contributions. The Hoboken Democratic Party, controlled by Roberts until a few years ago, received $11,500. Former 4th Ward Councilman Chris Campos received $2000 directly with another $500 funneled through At-Large Councilman Peter Cammarano’s Voice for All Hoboken committee.
Curious about this level of contribution activity, I requested vendor activity reports and invoices from City Hall and the Board of Education. I discovered purchase after purchase of hundreds of items every year. Jerseys, sweatshirts, sweatpants, t-shirts, shorts, hats, and socks. Dozens of balls – basketballs, footballs, baseballs – ordered again and again and again. All sorts of pads, guards, whistles, cups, coolers, bags, bottles, scorecards, ice packs, trophies, plaques, and miscellaneous items. While active recreational and after-school sports programs are commendable, I have to wonder what becomes of all this merchandise. Is it taken home? Thrown away after a season’s use? Sold out of someone’s trunk? I see more than a few forty- and fifty-year olds walking the avenue in full Hoboken Redwings attire.
Perhaps we are providing Hoboken’s middle-aged set with their leisure wear?
Hoboken is in financial crisis. The economy is in a downturn. Yet, the city’s recreation and cultural affairs department spent over a million dollars in the 2008 fiscal year. The Board of Education spent at least another $600,000 on athletics. Perhaps this sort of spending should be scrutinized to make sure that we’re not spending money frivolously.”
I asked estevens what he thought all these numbers meant. Looking at the aggregate total purchase volume of sporting goods and accessories doesn’t really say much other than “Oh boy, that’s a lot of moolah.” How does he know it’s “extraordinary?” What IS ordinary? And without knowing the circumstances behind every transaction – it’s almost impossible to determine whether they were or weren’t justifiable.
How do these expenses compare to other municipalities? Are costs similar? What about costs of individual items? How did they compare to other suppliers? What services does Stan’s offer that others cannot? Does their local presence allow them to service the city better and faster?
In looking at the RFP – two other suppliers bid for the contract – but were unable to meet the qualifications. I can only wonder if the city made the RFP impossible to complete – just to get their favored vendor in (I used to work in procurement – I know all the tricks).
My goal as Mayor (if I ran) – would be to have a competent purchasing administrator – as well as multiple vendors to choose from. Back when I made purchasing decisions for Fortune 500 companies – we shopped around nearly every purchase – not just writing blank checks for merchandise. With the volume of purchases the city makes, could better deals be struck with larger suppliers? Sure! Will they provide the same service? Not sure. Is anyone price checking during the contract? I doubt it. Regardless, a better policy should be in place in Hoboken for choosing vendors to best suit the city and the budget.
But in no way would I scale back school athletics. It’s one important aspect of our community that should never be compromised. Can cuts be made or efficiencies discovered? Sure! But never reduce extra-curricular activities for our youth.
Browse through the 140+ pages of recent invoices to Stan’s Sports. Anything look out of line to you?
What do you make of this? Are political contributions bad? Is in unlawful to say “thank you” to the city government that awarded you a contract? Are we spending too much?