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County to bid out lawn service

COVINGTON - County commissioners unanimously voted to put the lawn care maintenance contract out to bid at a special called meeting Tuesday night.

Commissioner John Douglas made the motion not to renew the contract with Durden's Lawn Maintenance and to instruct the administrative services department to issue requests for proposals for landscape services so that "a new contract can be awarded at the earliest opportunity." J.C. Henderson seconded the motion.

Commissioners voted 3 to 2 on Feb. 5 to approve a five-year contract for Durden. Douglas, Henderson and Levie Maddox were in favor and Commissioners Nancy Schulz and Lanier Sims were in opposition because they wanted to put the service out to bid. Douglas said later that the chairman had yet to sign the contract and no county funds have been paid to Durden in 2013.

Following the Feb. 5 meeting, the Citizen examined the business license file for Durden's Lawn Maintenance at the Department of Development Services and discovered that owner Billy Durden was operating without a valid license. In addition, Durden's operated without a license from 2002 to 2006, during which time he held the county contract for lawn care.

Durden said he did not know he needed a business license during those years because he operated out of his home.

Chairman Keith Ellis said that he examined county records on Durden's Lawn Maintenance and what he found contributed to his calling a special meeting Tuesday night. He said he distributed that information to commissioners. The Citizen has requested the information commissioners received. The Citizen also filed an Open Records request with the county earlier this week for information related to the cost of lawn care.

Ellis said Wednesday that he noticed a "huge spike in the cost of lawn care" up until 2010, when the cost leveled off, and realized a lot of money was being charged for lawn care services other than the standard grass cutting and weedeating, for services such as spreading pinestraw.

While he said these could have been legitimate charges, "how it spiked over the years raised my eyebrows."

"I think the majority of citizens would like to have seen it rebid," he said.

Ellis noted that, "If Durden wants to bid and everything's in order, he will not be prohibited."

Ellis said the county will handle lawncare in house until the contract is awarded.

Ellis started Tuesday's meeting by assuring citizens that commissioners are "striving to do the very best job they can in the short time we've been in office. Some of us are brand new to this. We're doing our best to gel as a team.

"As chairman, I take full responsibility for some of the things that have happened in the past," said Ellis, who started his first term in January. "I want to ask you to be patient with us as we work together to form that team."

Ellis said the county has fine staff members and "if anybody is to be scrutinized, it should be us, the elected officials."

Ellis also promised to "do as much homework for you as I possibly can to make sure the assignment is complete, as a teacher would students."

"I pulled my own open records request and I found out a lot of information and I'm going to try to do that every time, so I put that square on my shoulders," he said.

Ellis said he will be available at 4 p.m. on Mondays prior to regular county commission meetings on the first and third Tuesdays of the month to sit down with citizens and discuss any concerns. He invited the public and commissioners to come by for what he is calling the "Chairman's Chat."

"We're trying to instill a team and I really believe that this group is one that you'll be happy with and proud of in the future," he said.

Comments

dennistay53 1 year, 9 months ago

You have to give them credit for going back and getting it right. I don't understand all the security though. I counted about 6 deputies and sheriff in the building wheras there were maybe no more than 20 in the audience. Does the Newton Citizen know why they had all this security? We can't pay to put armed deputies in all the schools yet they can have this much security watching a few concerned citizens? Is this their way of telling us they don't want us to showup at meeting or say anything? I know the sheriff didn't do this. It had to be asked for. Why? I think i know who was behind it because i over heard this commissioner talking to the deputies. One of the deputies asked him if there was going to be any fire power and the commissioner said i don;t know but i see i have a lot of fire power here.

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dennistay53 1 year, 9 months ago

Sorry Mr Ellis but there was NO patience shown to Mrs Morgan by Mort Ewing or Tommy Craig or Middleton whe she first took office, and I say this even though i'm a national republican. She was stabbed in the back right from the get go. So if you aren't getting a break right off the bat you can blame it on people in your own party.

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John 1 year, 9 months ago

After a whole lot of "shake & bake" the Commissioners got it right good show. Don't stop here, as a former CEO, a Naval Academy graduate & Lt. Commander, that I worked for used to say "do it right, each time & every time". Wouldn't it be nice if the Commissioners for each District hold a "townhall" type meeting for those people in their respective districts to see what is on people's mind at least once a year and report back what has been accomplished on those campaign promises. Can't think of a better way to represent people in the district and get their report card - I think this might be called transperancy vs the "mushroom treatment approach".

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Neuhierl 1 year, 9 months ago

We also need the citizens of Newton County to attend the BOC meetings and use the time appointed at the beginning of the meeting (3 minutes per person) to address the BOC with their thoughts and concerns. I am shocked at how few, some meetings nobody, take(s) advantage of this opportunity to share what's on their mind(s) and give the BOC members their "report card." Perhaps people don't know this is open to them?

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dennistay53 1 year, 9 months ago

We need them to attend, but what statement is the board saying by have deputies behind the concerned citizens in every wall of the room.Never seen anything at any commissioner meeting that would say this was necessary. Are they telling us they don't want us there and not to make any comments against them?

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Bemused 1 year, 9 months ago

The commissioners of districts 2 and 3 do hold townhall meetings for their constituents - several times a year.

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John 1 year, 9 months ago

That is a good thing and a good start, the next step is to get 100% participation. Guess the Chairman needs to get all the Commissioners working out of the same play book.

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Frustrated 1 year, 9 months ago

maybe I missed it but I live in District 2 and have never seen a notice of a twonhall meeting. Not saying there hasnt been on outside election year, but it needs to be published better.

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Bemused 1 year, 9 months ago

I don't live in District 2 and I have seen the announcements in the papers, articles about them and ads on the Covington cable channel. I only remember them because I remember thinking that I wish my commissioner would do something like that on the eastern side, but they've shown over and over again on this side of the county that they don't really care about our opinions.

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Frustrated 1 year, 9 months ago

Thank you for the information. But I don thave Covington cable and dont subscribe to the "other" paper. I will start looking closer now.

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Neuhierl 1 year, 9 months ago

Now that the BOC has decided it's a good idea to put the lawn care contract out to bid, will they now continue on their path to redemption by putting the recycling contract out to bid as well?

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QuitYourWhining 1 year, 9 months ago

I too applaud the Commissioners and Chairman Ellis for truly listening to the desires of the citizens. It is refreshing to hear someone actually take responsibility and do what it takes to be good stewards. With everyone working together toward a common goal, we all win. Disagreements will still be present, but do not need to bog down the process. I encourage everyone to reach out to your Commissioners and visit with the Chairman to share your ideas for making Newton County a better place to be.

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livingart 1 year, 9 months ago

Okay - remind me again why it was necessary to have a County Manager plus a Chairman and commissioners ???

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Neuhierl 1 year, 9 months ago

I am confused by the answer given by the County Manager to Commissioner Douglas when he asked about Durden's 1099 showing they were paid more in 2007 than was on the purchase order. The reply was that there may have been more services rendered such as pinestraw. When Commissioner Douglas looked at the papers in his possession, he noted a PO in early 2008 for pinestraw.I am hoping that Mr. Middleton mis-spoke as it would not be proper anywhere else to pay a vendor or even receive services from a vendor without a PO. Perhaps when the Newton Citizen gets a chance to review those same or other documents this can be cleared up. If not, this is another opportunity for improvement. This is not a new enterprise, the service contracts should be written to include all the services needed or we should go without, unless it's some sort of emergency.

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dennistay53 1 year, 9 months ago

@Neuhierl - I was at the meeting and was also confused about this. Mr Middleton is kinda hard to hear at times. I also heard a question about whether some may have been in different fiscal years, but never heard an answer. I would also like to know if cutting the grass at the sheriff office is part of this contract. Just heard rumor that cutting the grass at the jail cost $110,000 a year. Hope this is just a rumor and the jail is in with this contract because no way we could be paying $110,000 for cutting and landscapping just at the jail when we have all those inmates are they?

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Frustrated 1 year, 9 months ago

Shouldnt items like pinestraw be included in thecontract and not as an additional expense?

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horseinaround 1 year, 9 months ago

It is refreshing to see a politician take responsibility when obviously there is plenty of blame to go around. So often they want to blame someone else. President Obama is still blaming President Bush over 4 years after he left office.

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Bemused 1 year, 9 months ago

Grow up. You fools are still blaming Clinton for crap. Quite frankly, if you want to go down this road, the overwhelming majority of the problems of this country today, especially the financial ones, are a direct result of the actions of the Bush Administration.

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John 1 year, 9 months ago

What President "Promoted" the idea that every American should enjoy the American Dream and encouraged Freddy Mac & Fannie Mae & other financial institutions to make it happen. Can you say the housing bust of 2007/08 & it is still going on. Hint: Monika Lewinski's main squeese for a while.

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