A splintered Davis County Commission proceeded Wednesday on plans to build a new county jail and court complex, with one commissioner repeating his request for an attorney's opinion on whether the project's budget has been legally approved.
Commissioner William "Dub" Lawrence repeated an assertion he made at Monday's commission meeting that a March 22 vote to approve the project's budget was not legal. Lawrence voted against the $20.6 million budget at that meeting.According to Lawrence, a state statute states that a governing body's vote to increase a project's construction budget must be unanimous. Deputy County Attorney Jerry Hess, who handles the county's civil work, agreed to look into the issue Wednesday.
Of three agenda items related to the jail's construction that were tabled Monday because of Lawrence's objections, two were approved Wednesday and one was not voted on.
The commission approved a request by project supervisor Joe Rhoads to hire a consultant, Gene Toolson, at $20 an hour to act as the county's negotiator with the Central Davis Sewer District on the new complex's sewer line and hookup fees.
Instead of the $10,000 maximum budgetary appropriation proposed Monday, however, the commission capped the amount Toolson will receive at $5,000.
Lawrence voted for the proposal, saying a meeting with fellow commissioners Gayle Stevenson and William Peters, along with Hess, before Wednesday's commission meeting convinced him that hiring a negotiator will save the county money in the long run.
The jail budget has $84,000 appropriated for sewer costs, and Lawrence said he believes that can be substantially reduced.
A second request by Rhoads, to advertise for bidders for quality control inspection as the jail is built, passed by a 2-1 margin with Lawrence dissenting. Lawrence opposed an increase in the construction budget from $15,000 to $43,000 for the work.
A third request, for approval of a change order in the jail plans for a fuel island and maintenance building, never came up for a vote.
Rhoads, backed by Hess, said the underground fuel storage tank and gas pumps were shown on construction plans approved by the commission in December, before Lawrence joined the group. Peters and Stevenson were on the commission that voted for approval.
The project supervisor said he made the change order request to ensure it was properly approved, but research into the commission's minutes for Dec. 21 and a look at the plans approved that day include the fuel depot.
In response to remarks made earlier in the meeting by Lawrence about the project's overall cost, both Peters and Stevenson said they're working hard to keep the jail and court complex within budget.
Voters approved $18.5 million in bonds for the construction, Peters said, an amount that with interest the bonds earn will total $20.6 million. Construction bids opened last week indicate the project may be built for between $18.5 and $19 million, with an $800,000 contingency budget. Peters suggested the rest of the money could be used to pay off interest on the bonds.
Peters said original plans for the complex came in at $32 million and the commission has been relentlessly cutting those back, trimming it down to the $18 million to $19 million they feel the county's residents will support.
Stevenson said the jail project, like any other major construction program, is constantly changing as commissioners listen to advice and suggestions.
"No one's trying to hike up this project's cost," Stevenson said. "We're being very conscientious about it. I pledge to you I won't sit still for any nonsense on it."