A Davis County commissioner says he still has questions concerning the $20.6 million budget for the county's new jail and court complex, despite a county attorney's opinion that it's perfectly legal.
Davis County Commissioner William "Dub" Lawrence asked Deputy County Attorney Gerald Hess to determine if the 2-1 vote, with Lawrence dissenting, was legal and if the jail project's budget is established at the $20.6 million level.Hess said a study of Utah statutes shows no law exists requiring the commissioners to set a formal construction budget for the project, so the March vote is legal. He also said the law permits changes to be made in the budget, but changes that increase the project's cost must be approved by a unanimous vote.
Lawrence maintains that the commission in December 1988 - before he took office - set a construction budget of $18.5 million, the amount approved by voters in a 1987 bond election.
The plans and specifications approved in the December vote were only 90 percent complete, Lawrence said Monday, concluding the March approval of a $20.6 million budget and final plans for the project constituted an increase in the jail's cost and approval of a series of change orders.
That, Lawrence said, means the approval must be unanimous so his dissenting vote nullifies the $20.6 million budget.
At the March meeting, commissioners William Peters and Gayle Stevenson approved an overall budget of $20.6 million to build the jail, court complex and new sheriff's office.
They agreed to set the project's construction budget at the $18.5 million approved by voters and set the remaining $2.1 million, which the county will earn in interest on investing the bonds, aside as a contingency fund.
The commission last week passed a resolution of intent to award the construction contract to Layton Construction Co., which bid a total of $14.6 million for the project. The bid has not been formally awarded.
Peters warned Lawrence Monday that further delays in awarding the bid and starting construction will push the project into another construction season and could result in a 15 to 18 percent increase in its overall cost.
Hess said Monday his legal research shows state law does not require that a project budget be adopted, so the March vote setting a $20.6 million cost figure is more an informal agreement between the commissioners than a binding figure.
The law also permits the continual refinement of a project's budget as construction proceeds, Hess said, but requires that changes in plans or specifications that increase a proj-ect's cost be passed unanimously.
Hess and Lawrence debated for nearly a half-hour whether the December vote established the jail proj-ect's plans and specifications and if the March vote altered those, thus requiring unanimous approval.
"I'm not a builder; I'm a lawyer," Hess said at one point, when Lawrence asked him repeatedly if the project's building plans or specifications had been changed. "To answer that, you need to talk to the project supervisor."
"I want this settled," Lawrence said at one point during the debate with Hess. "I'm tired of beating a dead horse."
"And I'm tired of being the dead horse that's being beaten," Hess responded.
Lawrence and Peters eventually agreed to review what Lawrence says are the changes made in the plans between December and March, and Hess agreed to look further into the state law governing construction budgets and change orders.