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Bid formula turns contentious

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By RON CRAIG
STAFF WRITER

More than 30 minutes of an hour and a quarter meeting of the Seneca County commissioners Tuesday morning was spent hashing out how bids will be formulated for renovations to the county-owned Annex Building.
During that meeting, one commissioner said he “took offense” to being hurried to make decisions on how the bids will be requested.
The renovations are necessary for a move by the county’s probate and juvenile courts from their current Jefferson Street, Tiffin, location to the Annex Building after the common pleas court moves to the new Justice Center now under construction.
Commissioner Shayne Thomas had asked that several aspects of the renovation project be broken out and bid as alternates. Commissioners Holly Stacy and Mike Kerschner argued taking too much out of the main bid could cost the county more in the long run.
Thomas asked LED lighting upgrades for the second and third floors be bid as an alternate, along with separate alternates for stairwell flooring, painting and flooring to non-common areas, server room work and renovations to the courtrooms on the second and third floors.
Taking the courtroom renovations out of the main bid and having them as alternates were sticking points for Stacy and Kerschner.
“It’s cheaper to do it all at once,” Kerschner said. “If (the contractors) have to come back to do some of the work, it will cost more.”
The exchange became somewhat contentious when Stacy made a comment about the timing of the bidding process and any possible delays in getting started on the renovation work.
“We could get started in late January or early February, but we might miss that window of opportunity to get good bids,” Stacy said, adding the commissioners have been working for about 18 months on renovation issues.
Thomas sharply disagreed with that premise, arguing the commissioners need more information on the costs of some aspects of the project.
“I take offense to that. This is the first chance we’ve had to have a conversation about alternates. I’m not going to be hurried up when (the architects) have had nine months to work on this,” Thomas said.
Kerschner asked if there was a compromise at hand in order to move the process along, but that line of thought fell apart quickly.
Toward the end of the Annex Building discussion, Thomas made a motion to break out and bid as alternates the items he had steadfastly argued throughout the exchange of ideas. That motion died for lack of a second.
Stacy, who had argued taking too much out of the main bid was not a good idea, followed with her own motion, which would break out the server room work, LED lighting upgrades for the second and third floors, and stairwell flooring replacement. It also added a twist by including in alternate bids renovations for a storage area that Thomas did not seek in his motion.
Kerschner seconded Stacy’s motion, and when the roll call vote was taken, Thomas cast the sole no vote.
In other business, Dr. Tracy Elder of the Seneca Community Chaplain Corps asked the commissioners to assist her group by changing the lease on the county-owned building the organization occupies.
The group has been struggling financially for the past several months, and late last year the commissioners assisted them with utility payments. While the chaplain corps pays only $1 per year for the lease, they are paying $18,000 to $22,000 per year in utilities.
Elder proposed paying a flat monthly fee of $500, which would include utilities.
Elder said her organization provides many services to the local community, including providing residential services for drug addicts who are trying to turn their lives around.
Because the chaplain corps is a religious-based organization, it is not eligible for many grants and other financial assistance from sources that prohibit such assistance to religious groups.
Stacy said she understood the organization’s financial issues, adding it will take some time for the commissioners to discuss the proposal.
A $163,000 safety grant the county has been awarded was another topic of discussion at Tuesday’s meeting.
The commissioners were informed the North Central Ohio Educational Service Center is willing to loan funds for the grant project and then cover the costs of that loan.
The grant requires the county to come up with 100 percent matching funds, and $110,000 of those matching funds could be made up by the cost of the purchase of a generator for the new Justice Center.
Because the generator has already been figured into the cost of the Justice Center, the county would not have to come up with that much of the matching funds required by the grant.
The county had sought $500,000 in grant funding to help pay for IT upgrades to county communications equipment and network, but only got approval for the $163,000 that was awarded.

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