Controversy still surrounds maintenance bids

Friday, July 31, 2009

Marshall County commissioners on Monday: hired a school board member to mow the courthouse lawn; decided to re-bid janitorial services; and awarded a pest control service.

School Board member Curt Denton's lawn care service was deemed "the low bidder" for the building maintenance agreement for mowing services, according to the hiring resolution that was unanimously approved.

Denton participated in the competitive bidding process that was conducted by the county's Building Committee. Denton's Lawn Care service succeeds two other services: Michael Head of Big Dog; and Marvin Roe of R&R Lawn Care.

Denton was a school bus driver before he was elected to the school board. He resigned as a driver when he was sworn in. State law prohibits school board members from being employed by the board. There is no prohibition against the county commission from hiring someone who is a member of the school board.

According to records at the County Accounts and Budget Office the total of the cost of R&R and Big Dog mowers was $10,698 a year. Comparison is difficult because of the way the bids were awarded this year.

Denton's bid was $7,600, depending on whether he was paid annually in a three-year contract or up to $9,500 annually if he's paid monthly with individual billing for each time a lawn is mowed. There are 10 places to mow, including the Courthouse, Health Department, two EMS stations, the library, the Livestock and Exposition Center, a maintenance shop lawn, and the lawn around the Hardison Annex.

Big Dog's $9,300 annual price was the second best bid in that scenario. Big Dog's mowing price under the second scenario was also higher.

Meanwhile, commissioners accepted the county attorney's recommendation to call for janitorial service prices again.

There were two resolutions before the commission. One was recommended by the Building Committee. Another was an independently submitted resolution from Commissioner Billy Spivey.

Lengthy discussion included comparisons on the cost of air fresheners for restrooms in county buildings, the carpets at entrances, and the frequency of routine office maintenance, as well as increased sanitation of health department waiting areas.

Complicating the analysis of the prices was a decision by Building Committee members to issue a request for proposals asking vendors what could be done for the county at what price. That's different from a simple bid call that requires the buyer to specify what's to be purchased.

County Attorney Ginger Shofner was asked about how long service contracts could last. She said the Supreme Court has said up to seven years.

Longer contracts might provide savings and that was the goal, said Commissioner Mickey King, chairman of the Building Committee.

Three contractors' prices were compared. They're from Shays, the current contractor, Harris, and Biggers, both with leaders in Marshall County.

Further complicating the comparisons were options for different arrays of service and whether all three bidders had an opportunity to compete for those services.

Little, if any, discussion was heard on any progress, or even whether there was still a prospect of the county buildings being serviced by the county school systems' building maintenance department.

"There's no definitive low bidder," Shofner concluded before advising.

Among other purchasing issues confronted by the commissioners on Monday was the award of a pest control contract.

As representatives of the janitorial services observed the commission's deliberations, Brent Dooley, branch manager for the Terminix office in Columbia, said he and an associate were present because they felt they had the lowest bid for that service.

Numbers from the Accounts and Budget Office bear that out, showing Terminix bid $4,776 annually, David Philpott of Marshall County Pest Control, the previous contractor, bid $5,700, and the third company, Kirkland's, bid $5,160.

Commissioners voted 17-0 for the Terminix contract.