The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 1, 2012

Jasper County Commission approves jail repair contract

By Susan Redden

CARTHAGE, Mo. — Despite objections to both elements of their plan, members of the Jasper County Commission on Tuesday agreed to a contract for repairs to the county jail and to seek proposals for borrowing money for part of the cost.

Sheriff Archie Dunn objected to the commission’s decision to hire Cornerstone Detention Products, of Tanner, Ala., for the work, calling the company’s $861,000 maximum bid price too costly.

And plans to seek bank financing for part of the cost brought protests from Blane Mitchell, of Carthage. Mitchell, who is a candidate for Eastern District associate commissioner, said taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay interest when county money is available for the cost.

Dunn and Frank Winkler, a member of a residents’ committee that has been meeting to discuss the jail, both said the commission should reject all proposals and again advertise the repair project for bids.

The two based part of their argument on a lower-cost proposal from SimplexGrinnell, which has told the Sheriff’s Department it can do the work for about $550,000.

“They could have submitted a bid, but they didn’t,” said Darieus Adams, Western District associate commissioner.

He said the proposals were not comparable, and that the company in its communication with the sheriff didn’t address several elements of the project.

“They say they can do it for $547,000, but they’ve only got about half the equipment,” Adams said. “I think their bid would be more than what we’ve got if they replaced the same amount of equipment.”

Winkler said the problems at the jail are long-standing ones, so the county would have time to start over.

“Cancel it, start over and try to get more bidders,” he said. “I don’t think the scope of work was well enough defined. If it had been, you would have more bidders.”

Adams said representatives of eight companies toured the jail as potential bidders.

“I think we’ve got good value for our money,” he said. “There’s no basis to reject it.”

He offered a motion to accept the contract, and it was unanimously approved.

Mitchell noted that the commission originally wanted to spend no more than $500,000 for the project. And, citing figures he said he got from Richard Webster, county auditor, he said the county has enough money in reserves to cover the cost without borrowing money for the balance and paying interest.

Adams said initial funding will come from $137,000 set aside from law enforcement sales tax funds in the 2011 budget and $266,000 out of general fund reserves. The commission will seek proposals from banks for financing for $500,000, “which is the worst-case scenario,” he said.

The commissioners have said the $861,000 price in the contract is the maximum, and they expect the final tally to be lower.

Mitchell said financing would be costly, particularly if the county had to pay in the range of 4 percent interest.

“It won’t be that much; I’ve checked it out,” responded John Bartosh, presiding commissioner. “We’re putting it out for bid. Enough said.”

Webster after the meeting agreed with the numbers cited by Mitchell, “but I don’t think it’s a good idea to use a big chunk of it on one project.”

Mitchell at one point complained that questions he asked of the commission were being answered by Norman Rouse, attorney for the panel.

“I know it gets heated, but I want the commission to listen to the citizens,” he said. “What we’re talking about is taxpayer money.”

Decisions on the sheriff’s budget by the auditor and the commission are among the conflicts between the sheriff and the commission that are linked primarily to spending and other matters related to the law enforcement sales tax.

Road grader

IN OTHER BUSINESS TUESDAY, the commission approved a motion from Jim Honey, Eastern District associate commissioner, to declare as surplus a 1968 road grader so it can be given to the city of Carterville.