A Putnam County councilman's question of a jail roofing project has drawn the response of the sheriff and a county commissioner.
Don Walton has told fellow council members that the State Board of Accounts is looking into a contract with Walnut Creek Construction to reroof the Putnam County Jail.
Walton presented information that showed Sheriff Mark Frisbie had presented bids for the roof project to the county commissioners on June 6, 2006, but at the time they asked Frisbie to get a lower bid on the project.
On June 20, 2006, Frisbie asked the county council for an additional appropriation of $140,000 for the roof project. The council unanimously approved the request, with member Keith Berry making the motion and Walton giving a second.
On Nov. 21, 2006, Frisbie told the council he had received two bids from contractors -- Pell's in Clay County, and Walnut Creek Construction in Greencastle. The council accepted the Walnut Creek bid, which was the lowest of the two.
Walton told the council that when the bid was approved, the company was already in the process of doing the roof repair, and had been paid $25,000 by county auditor Stephanie Campbell on Nov. 15, 2006.
Walton said he was concerned because two additional payments were made on the project before the job was completed -- on Nov. 21 for $51,862 and on Dec. 1, 2006 for $25,931.
Information submitted by Walton showed that the county commissioners did not sign the contract for the job until Feb. 5, 2007.
Walton told the BannerGraphic he is concerned because the contractor, Walnut Creek Construction, has since gone out of business but failed to pay a subcontractor $25,000 for work completed on part of the project. Walton said he fears the subcontractor may come back on the county seeking payment.
The council has turned the matter over to its legal counsel for review.
The work specified in the original contract also was not completed as stated, Walton said.
Sheriff Mark Frisbie told the BannerGraphic on Friday that the project did change from its original scope, but he never received a copy of the signed contract between the commissioners and the contractor.
"The contractor on their own changed what they bid," Frisbie said. "The original bid was supposed to take off the old roof and put on the new one. Walnut Creek put the new roof on top of the old roof, saving some money, because they took the savings and used it to improve other parts of the roof that were rotten."
The total bid for the original job was $103,725.
Frisbie compared the change in the job to a "change order" that occurs on construction projects. But he pointed out that while the council approved the project not to exceed $140,000, the roof was repaired at a cost far less. And now, the jail roof does not leak.
The council and commissioners both expressed concern about the life of the roof, which was supposed to last up to 20 years, but was leaking before the building, constructed in 1997, had even reached the 10-year point.
"The original roof should have lasted longer than it did," commissioner Kristina Warren told the BannerGraphic on Friday, "and it was mentioned that they (the original contractor) used the lowest grade shingles."
Warren also pointed out that the county saved the difference between the additional appropriation amount approved by the council, and the amount spent on the replacement.
"He's (Walton) questioning the difference between $140,000 and $103,000," Warren said. "Well, Mark didn't spend the difference. It rolled back into the cumulative jail fund."
That fund is used for jail facility maintenance, repairs and upgrades.
Warren also pointed out that the manner in which the construction company was paid is not out of the ordinary for the county.
"It is common to pay up front for the materials to do the job, especially for local contractors," Warren said. Many local contractors are small businesses that do not have the cash flow to wait until the end of a project to be paid for the work.
"It's very common," Warren said. "He (Walton) should know that. He does masonry work. And he approved stuff like that for (electrician) Jerry Ensor when Ensor did work in the courthouse."
Frisbie said he is confused by the questioning of the roof project at this time.
"No one has ever asked for the revised contract," Frisbie said, adding that he does not keep contracts. Those documents, when signed by the commissioners, are on file with the county auditor's office.
Warren is the commissioner for Putnam County's southern district. She unseated Walton in his bid for re-election as the Republican candidate in the 2004 primary.
Warren is now seeking re-election to that seat. Walton has also filed his candidacy for election to that seat, and will challenge Warren in the May primary.