Picking a telephone system for the county's new justice complex and to replace the current one in the county courthouse stirred a long-simmering feud between two Davis County commissioners Wednesday.
Commissioner Dub Lawrence and Commission Chairman Gayle Stevenson exchanged some heated words at Wednesday's commission meeting over the county's budget and spending practices.At issue is the selection of a telephone system for the $18.5 million judicial complex the county is building in west Farmington and a new phone system for the courthouse.
Administrative Services Director VerNon Griffith said the county installed a new phone system four years ago but the vendor has gone out of business. Parts are becoming scarce and expensive and there's no one to do necessary service work, he told the commissioners.
Griffith said he worked with state officials and is recommending that a single telephone system be installed in the two facilities for compatibility.
The phone system for the new jail and court complex, including wiring, will cost about $250,000 and a new system for the courthouse will run around $200,000, for a total of $450,000, he told the commission.
No money is available in the current county budget for a new telephone system for the courthouse because the collapse of the county's phone vendor came as a surprise.
And the phone system in the new justice complex is budgeted at $85,000, leaving a funding gap there, too.
That brought criticism from Lawrence, who said the justice complex is too elaborate and too many unbudgeted and over-budget expenses are cropping up. The only way to pay for them, he charged, is with a tax increase.
"This project has been budgeted inadequately, putting $85,000 in the construction budget for a system that's going to cost $140,000, plus another $100,000 for wiring," said Lawrence.
"This is a budget-buster. It bothers me to have to go to the general fund or other sources of revenue to cover what should have been budgeted for," Lawrence said, indicating he fears a property tax hike will be necessary to pay for the new justice complex.
"I see more of these coming up. The county made grandiose choices, we've overcommitted, beyond the county's resources," Lawrence said.
That brought a sharp retort from Stevenson, charging that Lawrence's comments are without foundation.
The county has more than $1 million in uncommitted construction money for the justice complex, Stevenson said. All construction proj-ects, especially one as large as the justice complex, run into problems and low estimates, he said.
Stevenson said the jail project will not exceed its budget and that property tax hikes imposed by the county since the $18.5 million bond issue was approved by voters are part of the package.
"The contingency fund on the project, plus the interest the county has earned on the bonds, will cover the cost," Stevenson said. "We don't have to go to the general fund or the taxpayers. There is money available."