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County to consult outside company about courthouse HVAC system

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Magistrates can’t decide between two submitted bids.

By Calen McKinney

After discussing the issue for more than a year, they are starting over. Again. But this time, the county will consult an outside company to help decide the best company to replace the HVAC system at the Taylor County Courthouse.

At last Tuesday’s regular Taylor County Fiscal Court meeting, magistrates couldn’t decide which company to work with to replace the system, Perfection Group or Carrier. Both companies submitted bids for the project, which magistrates have discussed at length at many meetings.

The county’s relationship with Perfection Group began last year, when the company presented a plan to help the county get a new HVAC system and save money on energy costs at the courthouse and other county-owned buildings.The county’s relationship with Carrier began 15 years ago, when magistrates first contracted with the company to service the HVAC system.

But on Tuesday, magistrates twice voted down awarding a bid for the project. And, after more than an hour’s worth of discussion, they approved starting the project over, this time contacting a construction manager to help guide them.

Magistrates opened Perfection Group’s and Carrier’s bids last month.

A request for proposals for the courthouse project, which was written by Carrier officials, was released in December. The county asked for bids on two different projects, one that would replace the current system and one that would install a four-pipe system. Carrier bid a price of $376,000 to replace the current two-pipe system and $730,000 to install a four-pipe one.
Perfection Group bid $259,873 to replace the current system and $557,037 to install a four-pipe system.

Last year, Perfection Group submitted a $1.4 million proposal to replace the HVAC system and make energy-savings changes at all county-owned buildings. And with the project, the county was guaranteed to save about $22,000 a year in energy costs for the next 15 years. But many months after that proposal was made, magistrates agreed to no longer pursue the project with Perfection Group.

On Tuesday, Magistrate Matt Pendleton said an engineer reviewed the two bids and had questions about them. And he said Perfection Group’s bids didn’t include any payment for prevailing wages. In response, Perfection Group officials said their bids for the project, including prevailing wages, are $274,537 for the two-pipe system and $633,073 for the other. A Carrier official asked if he, too, could change his bid, since his competition was allowed to. Magistrates didn’t allow that.

Perfection Group officials said they believe the reason the county only received two bids for the project is because Carrier employees wrote the bid proposal. But Pendleton said he believes there is nothing wrong with that. Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers said magistrates should accept a bid or start the process over. Taylor County Attorney John Bertram said magistrates are allowed to reject the two bids and ask for bids again.

Magistrate John Gaines said he has been concerned from the beginning that he and his fellow magistrates aren’t qualified to evaluate the two bids.

Pendleton said residents are going to question magistrates if they contract with the company with the higher bid. He said he has, throughout the entire process, preferred the two-pipe system and would like to work with Carrier. And he made a motion to do that.

“I’m gonna face some criticism over this,” he said.

Pendleton said he believes the two-pipe system could easily be converted later to the four-pipe system and the companies might not want to involved with the project at all when they see the asbestos that must be removed to install the four-pipe system. The asbestos wouldn’t have to be removed if the current two-pipe system was just replaced with a new one, he said. Magistrate Richard Phillips seconded the motion.

But before voting, Magistrate Ed Gorin said he prefers the four-pipe system and he doesn’t want anyone to work around the asbestos.

Pendleton’s motion was voted down, however, with he and Phillips casting the lone “yes” votes.

Gorin then made a motion for Carrier to install a four-pipe system. Jones seconded the motion, which was also voted down. Pendleton, Phillips, Gaines and Magistrate Tommy Corbin cast the “no” votes.

Gaines said he believes the county needs an engineer and project manager to help guide magistrates through the project. Keith Vanover of Carrier offered to pay for a third party to inspect his company’s work, if magistrates are concerned that they don’t know how to evaluate it. Perfection Group officials said they will guarantee their bid won’t change, unless magistrates ask for changes in the scope of the project.

After much more discussion, much of which became tense between Perfection Group and Carrier officials, Gaines said, “I’m frustrated with the whole process.”

Pendleton said, “There’s four bids that can solve this problem and we can’t decide on one of them.”

After even more discussion, Jones made a motion to invite an engineer to meet with magistrates and advise them about what system will be best for the courthouse and then bid the project again. Gaines seconded the motion, which resulted in a tie.

In addition to Jones and Gaines, Corbin also voted “yes,” but Pendleton, Gorin and Phillips cast “no” votes.

Rogers broke the tie by voting “yes,” and saying, “I think we need to bid it.”

Also at the Meeting:

• Rogers told magistrates that PRIDE won't be awarding the county any money for a spring cleanup this year. The county received $2,000 from PRIDE last year but paid about $20,000 in costs for overtime pay and disposal costs.

Taylor County Treasurer Melissa Williams said about $20,000 is budgeted for a cleanup and there is money in reserve to help with the costs. Jones voted to host a cleanup this year, with Pendleton seconded and was unanimously approved. Read more about efforts to clean the community in Thursday's issue.

• Magistrates agreed to do away with the incinerator at the Taylor County Animal Shelter, after it recently broke. It will be cheaper to contract with a company to remove dead animals at the shelter, Pendleton said, at $200 a pickup. Fuel for the incinerator costs about $8,000 a load.

• A county safety committee was created. All magistrates will serve.

• Monthly requests for roadwork in the county were approved, including the repair of potholes, tile work and more. Several magistrates said there are missing street signs in their districts. Rogers said missing signs can create lots of problems, not only for residents but also for those responding to emergencies.

• Three doors at the courthouse will be replaced at a cost of $6,000.

• Magistrates accepted $151,000 in excess fees from Taylor County Clerk Mark Carney's office.

• Magistrates voted to chip and seal roads in an effort to eliminate all gravel roads in Taylor County. The entire project would cost more than $1 million. Though the county might not have enough money in the county's budget for all the roads, magistrates agreed to complete as many as the county can afford.

• As of Feb. 28, the county's general fund stood at $2,367,460.90