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Councilman questions roof repairs

Saturday, March 1, 2008

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.

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It is also customary in construction not to pay the final bill until waivers of lien are received from the general contractor and all subcontractors & suppliers. Did the county not do this? If not, I fear we the taxpayers will end up paying the general contractor's bad debts.

-- Posted by VolunteerFF on Sat, Mar 1, 2008, at 6:56 AM

The county won't be liable because the legal statute of limitations have already passed. A sub-contractor only has "x" amount of days to apply. That time has passed. It seems both the Commissioners and Council need to be more careful in the future.

-- Posted by brit10 on Sat, Mar 1, 2008, at 8:51 AM

This is what happens when you always take the lowest bid. I know that we want to save money for the taxpayers, but the cheapest is not always the best in the long run (witness the need to have a new roof in only 10 years)

-- Posted by not gullible on Sat, Mar 1, 2008, at 9:13 AM

Why wasn't the roof covered under the original construction? If it was my house I would have gone back on the builder. Why didn't the county?

-- Posted by NeverChanges on Sun, Mar 2, 2008, at 6:52 AM

Did they not check out the credentials of Walnut Creek or if there were any complaints? Because I'm sure there were many regarding the work of this construction company. There again the good old boy system always wins!!! Someone needs to clean the courthouse of it's employees and start all over again with the county commissioners. People in this county can't be all dumb!! Everyone needs to wake up and start taking notice as to what the commissioners are doing. This may cost the taxpayers more in the long run. I agree....why didn't they go back on the original contractor when the jail was built. There should have been a warranty. And for gods sake, they were supposed to remove the old roof, and they just put new roofing over the old. Someone needs to watch this county. And I don't even think god could keep up with watching over us. There's too much going on for even him to completely monitor us here in Good Old Putnam County.

-- Posted by cty-govt-a-muck on Sun, Mar 2, 2008, at 8:30 AM

"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."

The work had already been started and some money paid to the contractor before the bid was approved? Is that normal procedure for a project like this?

It seems the Sheriff keeps digging himself a deeper and deeper hole. This is yet another black mark against him....and our elected officials.

Remember all this folks when it comes time to cast your ballot again.

-- Posted by duallydriver on Sun, Mar 2, 2008, at 10:12 AM

I want to know why the County Council approved an additional without any paperwork? Especially for $140,000. Shouldn't they check into a request before blindly approving it?

I do agree, the Commissioners should have checked into the background of the contractor before approving them.

After reading comments for awhile now it does surprise me how quick everyone wants to replace all county officials in the courthouse when they make a mistake. After all, they are human. The ones quick to judge...do you never mess up? Or is it just because they are Republicans?

-- Posted by brit10 on Sun, Mar 2, 2008, at 6:44 PM

Without a doubt, most of the incumbents must go. Not because they are republicans either. Replace them with more Republicans if you wish, but the ones we have seem to be making things worse. Putnam County's roads are a mess, Putnam County has higher unemployment than the surrounding counties, and money keeps getting spent with no logic. Its time for the old guard to step down and let someone else have a shot at it.

-- Posted by hubba bubba on Sun, Mar 2, 2008, at 7:39 PM

I'm just glad that the sheriff and other elected officials are not kept in office like the Pope, for life.

-- Posted by fibber3@localnet.com on Mon, Mar 3, 2008, at 8:06 AM

If you don't want an incumbent then the Primary will be a toss up since 3rd District Comms. are both current elected officials.

-- Posted by brit10 on Mon, Mar 3, 2008, at 12:11 PM

I keep reading in many of the responses to most of the articles regarding city/county issues that the incumbents must go, so I hope that I have the opportunity to vote for some of you folks when the ballots are passed out in May!

-- Posted by crossfire67 on Tue, Mar 4, 2008, at 2:19 PM

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