Quick Help Needed At Cobo

Some officials of Michigan’s Wayne County were up in arms at press time about a Cobo Center request for proposals that they claim favors local facility operating firms.

Wayne County officials were proposing a plan to solicit bids to manage the Detroit center, which includes the 12,191-capacity Cobo Arena, by March 20, a day after officials were set to produce the request. Oakland County officials accused their counterparts of trying to engineer sweetheart deals for various parties.

The 13-page RFP asks for a facility management firm that can take over operation by April 20 and prefers metro Detroit firms, according to the Detroit News.

“I can’t be sure this is someone being hand-picked, but it really smells,” deputy Oakland County executive Robert Daddow told the paper. He added the RFP limits the operators to companies like Palace Sports & Entertainment and Nederlander.

“This is the single most important contract and you want a firm to respond that quickly?” Daddow said. “That doesn’t seem right.”

A spokeswoman for Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano said Ficano had no one in mind for the job.

“There is no handpicking by anyone,” she told the News, noting that the state mandated the April 20 turnover date. “Anyone can bid on this. This is open to any company that is out there.”

Meanwhile, federal economic stimulus money may go to expanding and renovating Cobo Center – or not. U.S. Rep. John Conyers suggests it is “more likely than not” that funds from the $787 billion stimulus package would go toward the center but, when the Detroit Free Press contacted Conyers’ office, his staff had to research the issue to determine if any money was available.

A Free Press analysis of the bill could not locate any such funding source.