County replacing 3,000 chairs at cost of $140,000

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Curry County is replacing 3,000 chairs at a price of more than $140,000 to replace seating bought less than a year ago.

Officials say the replacements are necessary because the original chairs are falling apart.

Wednesday, County Manager Lance Pyle acknowledged the new purchase, adding “The county has experienced numerous problems with the (original) chairs that were purchased.”

Commissioners approved the latest contract Tuesday to buy folding chairs for the Special Events Center. At the same time, the commission also approved several departmental budget cuts, in part to cover the cost of the replacement chairs.

The first purchase for $33,000 was approved at an April 21 meeting held in Melrose. Pyle said the county is now trying to work with the manufacturer to resolve issues with those chairs.

Kathy Elliott of Elliott Marketing in Clovis was the winning bidder for the original contract.

Elliott said she saw the advertisement for chairs in the newspaper and, “I found chairs that met the bid and put in a bid.” She declined to comment on the issues the county is having with the chairs.

Special Events Center Manager Kevin Jolley said the chairs are breaking.

“They’re just not as sturdy a chair. They didn’t meet the standards that we need,” Jolley said.

“These chairs get used quite a bit and they’re going to take some wear and tear… We’ve had them break and stuff like that.”

Jolley said the first chairs purchased have a plastic seat and back material. The new chairs are a heavier grade metal chair used commonly in the event business and are expected to hold up better, he said.

Folding chairs are used in some capacity at every event and Jolley said an additional 3,000 seats are needed at about 10 or more events a year.

The new chairs are expected to be ready for use in time for the Clovis High School Graduation in May, Pyle said.

In the meantime, Jolley said the event center is using the original chairs with care after going through a, “quadruple and triple check,” before being putting them in service.

“We’ve been very careful in how we used them,” he said.

Jolley said there have been no injuries and the center is working hard to ensure that none occur because of the chairs.

Commission Chairman Bobby Sandoval said he believes the county may have been misled about the chairs and might have made a bad decision.

“It might have been a little bit of both,” he said.

“The chairs just didn’t turn out to be what we thought they were going to be and we are frustrated. But I think the most important thing is to have chairs that are going to be safe for our taxpayers.”

Sandoval said the county is in the process of negotiating with the manufacturer to try and return the chairs and is hoping to recoup the cost.

“There could have been some injuries but we’re lucky there haven’t been any,” he said. “It’s something that has to be done and the (new) chairs are very, very well built.”

The cost of the new chairs at more than four times the cost of the first ones is a difficult pill to swallow, Sandoval said.