COVINGTON -- County commissioners tabled two service contracts -- lawn maintenance and management of recycling centers -- Tuesday night in order to have a work session before voting.
The lawncare maintenance contract has been a contentious point for the past two years; the current contract with Durden's Lawn Maintenance was approved by a vote of 3 to 2 last year.
Commissioners Nancy Schulz and Lanier Sims were opponents to that vote, for the second consecutive year asserting that the county should put out a request for proposals, given that the contract has not been put out to bid since 2006. Durden's has held the contract for 10 years. In 2011, commissioners approved a one-year contract with optional annual renewals for four additional years. This would be the second renewal under that contract, if approved by commissioners. The annual cost is $98,116, excluding any fuel adjustments.
Durden voluntarily reduced his cost by 4 percent, or more than $12,000, in 2010 to help offset a budget shortfall. At the time, commissioners were considering bringing the operation in-house to save money.
The work session will take place at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 5, prior to the board's 7 p.m. regular meeting. Also discussed will be the contract for management of 11 recycling centers, held by L.D. Hilliard Jr., at an annual cost of $412,331. This would be the first year of a four-year renewal option to the contract previously approved by the BOC that began in December 2011.
Information on how long it has been since the recycling center management contract has been put out to bid was not available as of deadline.
Commissioner J.C. Henderson, while voting in favor of tabling the contracts, expressed frustration that the board continues to discuss them, and said he hopes during the work session everything will be hashed out and the board won't have to continue to address the matter every year.
"I do recall these contracts a year ago and I recall the previous board did not vote 5 to zero, and I think this is a very serious issue with how we do our service contracts," Sims responded. "I urge the board to really consider and think really hard when we have this work session."
Commissioner Levie Maddox said that providers often stay in those positions because they have provided a good quality of service and pointed out that the board just minutes before unanimously approved a contract for the food provider at the Newton County Detention Center without suggestion that the contract be put out to bid.
Schulz recommended the county discuss a procurement policy at its retreat in February. Such a policy needs to define how often to seek requests for proposals for service providers, she said. In business, to put out an RFP on a three- to five-year rotation is an affirmation you are getting the best market pricing, she said.
The food services contract at the jail once again went to Frank's Restaurant at the recommendation of Sheriff Ezell Brown. The cost per plate is $1.70 The annual cost of the contract could not be obtained by deadline.
Brown said there have never been any problems or delays with Frank's service, and quarterly inspections result in a score of 100 plus, "so our facility, when you look at cleanliness, I would put up against any major restaurant here or abroad when it comes to cleanliness."