County Passes Extension for Jail Inspection
By John Lentz
Budget request presentations and a decision to increase funding for inspections at the new jail in Carthage were some of the issues at Tuesday's regular meeting of the Moore County Board of Commissioners.
The board heard a proposal to increase the cost of a required special inspection of the county's new detention center by $50,000.
In October 2010, the board voted 3-2 to award a contract to Kleinfelder Southeast Inc. of Morrisville, an independent engineering firm specializing in inspection and construction materials testing, for an amount that was not to exceed $268,885. Approval of the $50,000 would bring the total cost of special inspections to $318,885.
A state law adopted in 2007 requires special inspections for major capital building projects and includes soil testing and evaluation, reinforced concrete, structural masonry and structural steel.
Commissioner Tim Lea, who has consistently voted against the detention center project, took issue with the changed cost.
"The (jail) was supposed to be finished by Aug. 5, then we extended it to Nov. 4, and now we're once again back to the table," Lea said. "I guess $50,000 is not much in light of what will be a $42 million project, but for people not dealing with that kind of money, the taxpayers, it is a lot."
Moore County Manager Cary McSwain said the amendment was "absolutely justified."
"Kleinfelder inspects everything involved in the building process, and is paid in unit prices, not by time, for their work," McSwain said. "They perform a multitude of tasks to ensure that the quality of this project is maintained throughout."
McSwain pointed out that the $50,000 will most likely not be used in full.
"The board considered the original estimate presented to them to be too high, and they negotiated that price down to $268,000," he said. "Even with the $50,000 addition, it will still be lower than what was originally proposed."
McSwain praised Property Management Director Rich Smith.
"Rich has taken copious amounts of photos and has documented everything that has taken place during the project's development," he said. "If a particular part of the building failed, the documentation will be there. Due to his efforts, Rich has saved us hundreds of thousands of dollars."
The contract amendment states that the additional $50,000 is needed "due to additional man hours to perform the required testing and inspections services."
The board voted 4-1 to approve the amendment to the contract with Kleinfelder Southeast Inc. Lea was the lone dissenter.
Fire District Taxes
Board members also talked a lot about the fire insurance and tax district changes for the county. Presented by Fire Marshal Ken Skipper, the request was to review fire protection, insurance and tax districts and their relationship to the insurance rating of property owners.
"The Fire Marshal's Office has received numerous inquires from insurance companies and citizens regarding fire insurance classifications in Moore County," Skipper's statement read. "Most of the inquiries are a result of property owners being given lower insurance rates because of mistakes made by their providers in the location of property within a district."
Skipper said that some of the insurance classifications in Moore County have changed in the past 15 years, although all have been at lower ratings that resulted "in substantial cost savings to the citizens."
Skipper said that on Feb. 6, the county was asked by the McLendon Hills Property Owners Association to be removed from the Eagle Springs Fire District and put into the Seven Lakes Fire District. As a result, the Moore County GIS department was requested to conduct analyses of all 16 fire districts with regard to insurance classifications and distance to fire stations and determine any areas that could be relocated.
McLendon Hills homeowner Peter Dotto, president of the McLendon Hills Property Owners Association, addressed the board on what he perceived as an inequity in insurance rates between Eagle Springs and Seven Lakes.
"Ninety-one percent of homeowners signed a petition for relief (from this situation)," he said. "The difference between a class 8 and a class 6 rating is considerable. We paid $1,500 in insurance last year for Eagle Springs, a class 8, but I was told that if we were in the class 6 Seven Lakes district it would have been $500 lower. It's like a double tax."
Dotto said that the irony was that the Seven Lakes Fire Department is closer to him than Eagle Springs.
"If Eagle Springs was the closest, then no problem, but the West End and Seven Lakes stations are both closer to us. We would like insurance relief now."
Lea pointed out that the issue was first discussed in 2004, and asked if the county could legally provide insurance rate relief prior to the completion of a consulting study.
"The next step would be to do a fire tax generic to all," he said.
Commissioner Craig Kennedy said he would like to see the issue kept "in house," because "I feel that staff knows the answers already without conducting an expensive study."
Commissioner Jimmy Melton said his main concern was that one area "not be treated differently from the others."
The board voted unanimously to delay the issue. Commissioner Nick Picerno recused himself from the discussion.
"As a resident of McLendon Hills, my wife signed the petition to ask for annexation to Seven Lakes," he said. "I didn't feel it was appropriate to take part in the discussion."
In other business, the board heard several budget requests from area agencies, including Sandhills Community College and the Sandhills Center for Mental Health. SCC President John Dempsey asked the board for $4,131,819, a 3 percent increase from last year.
Sandhills Center CEO Victoria Whitt requested $274,706, the same as last year, for the agency.
Moore County Schools Superintendent Aaron Spence presented the schools' fiscal year 2012-2013 budget request to the board as well. Saying that "the success of every child is our top priority," Spence asked for level funding from the county at $26,252,072, the same amount as requested for fiscal year 2011-2012, as part of a total budget of $95.8 million.
The board took no action on any of the budget proposals.
Board members also adopted a resolution honoring the Sandhills Community College Flyers basketball team. Ranked sixth nationally in their division, the Flyers won the NJCAA Division III national championship last month.
"It's a big deal to win a national championship in marbles, anything, I don't care what it is," Caddell said. "This is a great honor for the community and for SCC and I can't thank you enough."
McSwain announced near the end of the four hour and 15 minute meeting that the day marked his 36th wedding anniversary.
"I'm glad it's you and not me," Caddell said following congratulations to McSwain from the board. "If I came in at 10:30 on my wedding anniversary, I'm afraid I would be in big trouble," he said to laughter from those still in attendance.
Contact John Lentz at email@example.com
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