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WARREN Sferra, golf course manager spar over clubhouse building



Published: Fri, February 8, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The building was constructed on city land without the benefit of a bidding process.

By STEPHEN SIFF

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

WARREN -- The city awarded a contract to build a $230,000 clubhouse at city-owned Avalon South Golf Course without seeking public bids, golf course manager Anthony Joy Jr. says.

The mayor who signed the contract agreed there were no bids, but said the whole thing was Avalon South management's idea.

"I don't know why he even built the thing, to be honest," said the former mayor, Daniel Sferra, now a state representative. "The city didn't make him build it."

Joy said he has been interviewed by the FBI about the circumstances surrounding the construction of the clubhouse in 1995. State law requires that public contracts worth more than $15,000 be advertised and awarded to the lowest bidder.

The building, which eventually overran the contract cost by $40,000, belongs to the city and was built on city land. The city co-signed on a $425,000 loan which Joy used to pay for the building and other projects.

"There was no way they bid on it," Joy said. "I'm sure, I'm positive."

Explanation: Joy said he was told at the time that the project was exempt from competitive bidding laws because he would be footing the bill. He also said that he had nothing to do with awarding the project to a contractor, a charge Sferra disputes.

"All the city did was guarantee the loans," said Dave Robison, city engineer.

The construction contract was probably with the city because the city owned the property, Sferra said. Joy's name did not appear on the contract.

Possible bankruptcy: Questions about who should pay for the clubhouse is one of the reasons his company has fallen behind in its rent to the city, Joy said.

On Thursday morning, the telephone in the nearly empty clubhouse rang constantly with well-wishers who heard of Joy's possible bankruptcy, or that his management company might by fired by Warren city council. Beverage coolers behind the snack bar were empty, as were all the display stands for golf clubs and equipment.

A state audit of Warren, to be released later this month, contains findings for recovery related to the golf course, which owes the city about $70,000 in back rent. Joy said the golf course is up-to-date on its liability insurance.

Joy said he withheld rent based on a verbal agreement that the city would cover some of the clubhouse expenses.

"He has said everything was verbal," Sferra said. "I wouldn't do a $270,000 verbal agreement with my wife."




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