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Opinion

Problems mount in Calliham building project


A Column by the Editor
web posted June 25, 2010
COLUMN – Is there any end to the convoluted way the majority of the Edgefield County Council and the County Government conducts itself? Since the entire fiasco surrounding the drawn out tax liens, tax sales, foreclosure, and purchase of the Calliham building that took years to complete, and being voted down many more times than it was approved, more problems rise to the surface - much to the chagrin of some elected officials.

The most recent problems revolve around a supposed “agreement” of the Edgefield County Council members to place Building and Planning Director Mike Reed over the interior demolition of one section of the building and to act as the general contractor for the remodeling of the building for county offices.

County Council Vice-Chairman Willie Bright said that it was his understanding that the members of the council were “polled” to approve the appointment. But polling the council members in order to take an action is a violation of the “sunshine” laws. So, that could not have taken place.

County Council Chairman Monroe Kneece states that the entire council “agreed” to tap Reed for the job, but he can’t remember when that was done and is not sure if it took place during a public meeting of the elected body. To put your mind at ease, it never happened.

Aside from the obvious problems with these scenarios, three members of council state publicly that no vote by the council ever took place to appoint Reed. Moreover, no vote was taken, or even discussed in public, that Reed was allowed to place an estimated $600,000 worth of work to be advertised for bids.

So how, with no public votes, no public discussion, has this project been allowed to move forward? County Council Chairman Monroe Kneece has been quoted as saying that it was none of the public’s business.

Really?

Our county council is spending hundreds of thousands of tax dollars on county owned property and how it is done is none of our business?

Chairman Kneece stated that “the State” had granted approval for Building Director Mike Reed to act as the general contractor for the project (that has never been voted on or approved). Kneece never identified what “state” department gave the approval.

However, according to the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, “No registered building code enforcement officer or contract inspector may engage in any work that conflicts or is perceived to conflict with his/her prescribed duties or the interest of the local jurisdiction for which employed.”

The entire regulation reads:
“8-165. Conflict of Interest.
No registered building code enforcement officer or contract inspector may be subject to personal gain by means of a fee, wage, commission, barter or any other form of compensation in currency, goods or services, in exchange for the furnishing of provide or offer to provide labor, material, appliances, equipment, plans, specifications, consultation or any services related to the construction, alteration, demolition or maintenance of any building or structure within the local jurisdiction for which employed.

No registered building code enforcement officer or contract inspector may engage in any work that conflicts or is perceived to conflict with his/her prescribed duties or the interest of the local jurisdiction for which employed.”

Now, I am sure that those who would rather spend more time trying to figure out ways to get around the legal aspects of conducting county business would say that Mr. Reed is not making a profit or being paid to perform his duties as the general contractor and the obvious lack of actual specifications (a hallmark of anything Reed is allowed to place out for bid) if proof he is allowed to circumvent the regulations.

I would argue that Mr. Reed is in fact being paid a wage for his duties and therefore profiting for acting as the general contractor.

He is performing the work, he is being paid for the work, and those contractors who his office oversees are bidding on this job, and all others in the county, and would be subject to his review and approval, now and for the future in Edgefield County.

No, there is no way that could be remotely perceived as having a “conflict of interest” in anything with Mike Reed as the head County Building Inspector.

In addition, the embarrassing “specifications” placed online for bid by Reed would turn any legitimate contractor away from bidding the job leaving less competent contractors eager to jump in and bid the minimums and then charge extra for any “omitted items” contained in the bid as a “change order”.

Check the county’s history on county owned projects and see how many came in under budget or even on budget. All went over budget with the initial costs rising due to “change orders” performed by “local contractors”.

Dig a little deeper and see how many times the same names involved in this fiasco turned up then as well.

I expect this to be no different. I believe it is nothing more than a cash cow for favored politically connected individuals who cannot find work outside Edgefield County. Granted, there is nothing wrong with using local contractors for local work, but let’s at least put the footing of bids on even ground and hold them to their bids.

According to County Council Monroe Kneece, the county council will vote on the floor plan being used to solicit bids, after the fact of the bids being obtained on June 28, at the July 6 meeting.

Now, that is a fancy little trick. Vote on approving what has already been done by someone that has not officially been approved to solicit the bids to spend taxpayer’s dollars on a project that the plans have never been approved by the county council.

Yet, these same county council members cannot understand why outside businesses and industry leaders will not consider Edgefield County as a place to locate?

Until the archaic majority of the county council is placed out to pasture, Edgefield County will never move forward.









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