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County poised to wipe out one third of county reserves in one year

A Column by the Editor
web posted November 16, 2010

COLUMN – The vote of the County Council to purchase a new network system and computers for the entire county government campus without competitive bids should come under closer scrutiny. With a final total price tag of over $160,000 of taxpayer money, it seems the entire meeting was contrived as no mention of a vote to make a purchase was listed on the agenda of the special called meeting.

Since passing a new purchasing ordinance in April the county has placed every purchase for services and or equipment out for bids ranging from as little as just over $4,000 to as much as nearly $100,000, until now.

At the called meeting to review a report from the contracted computer maintenance holder EDTS of possible system upgrades, the county council voted to award a contract for replacement of 47 computers and the entire networking system without ever placing the item out for a request for proposals much less bids for the actual work.

Conversely, since the passage of the new purchasing ordinance, the county has placed bids for purchases of a new transmission tower to be located at the Star Road location with bids ranging between $81,917and $105,000. The low bid, provided by World Tower Company, was accepted at their August meeting. 

At the same meeting the council approved bids for the replacement heat pump units at the Detention Center with the winning bid going to Cullum Electric and Mechanical out of Greenwood, suggested by Building and Planning Director Mike Reed. They provided the low bid of $46,187; the high bid came in at $84,375.

Bids were also awarded to Eddins Electric for the electrical wiring of the Calliham building at $22,000 and Hewston Contruction for carpentry work to be provided on a per hour basis of $20 an hour for a carpenter and $15 an hour for a helper at the suggestion of Mr. Reed.

There have been many other bids for equipment and labor also awarded over the past few months. How the county council can approve a purchase for equipment and installation totaling over $160,000 without bids has yet to be explained.

The county council majority openly questioned a similar lease-purchase of replacement of over-mileage patrol cars for the Sheriff’s Office which would cost the county far less money on a monthly basis was continually postponed. County Attorney Michael Medlock stated such a purchase would have to be placed out for bids, yet, in this situation the same rules do not apply according to his statements at the meeting.

Under an emergency purchase, there is a provision to purchase items without bids, however the entire network and computer systems is not down or in dire need of replacement.

Some elected officials have indicated that they might refuse to allow their networks to be tampered with and integrated with other county offices.  How that will pan out will be interesting.

However, the $163,000 spent to purchase the computers and servers from an unknown fund are not the only costs involved. No one has even mentioned what software provider Smith Data will charge to install programming to each of the new 47 computers.  
Since the county had to dip into its limited reserves to the tune of nearly $500,000 to balance the budget proposed by Chairman Kneece, any additional spending would have to dig deeper into those reserves.

That would also mean that if the county council approves an identical budget for the next fiscal year that deficient would increase an additional $20,000 for the purchase. 

That does not include what is suspected to be over spending of budgeted costs of remodeling at the new county office at the Kneece building, formally known as the Calliham property.

The reality check is that one third of our county reserves have, or will, disappear and no one is taking notice.

The economy is in the tank, property values are down (unless you look at your tax assessment and bill) and there will be no increase in unexpected revenues for next year.

Let’s hope that starting in January a majority of the county council that will contain fiscal conservatives, and not Democrats, things might be brought under control and our fiscal well-being might be preserved.

The current ruling majority and administration is taking us down a road we should not venture towards. While revenues are decreasing they have increased the cost of running the county exponentially and recklessly.

Let’s hope the new leadership of a Republican majority on the county council for the first time in 20 years will reverse this disastrous course. If not, they too need to be booted out of office and replaced with those who will.

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