Attorney: County can bypass bidding process
SCHUYLER COUNTY—The Schuyler County Legislature pulled a voting item from the Monday, Aug. 12, agenda about seeking bids to reconstruct the shared services building.
The building was damaged and made unusable after a fire, March 23. During the legislative meeting, County Attorney Geoffrey Rossi said he feels it is within the legislature’s right to declare the resulting work conditions for the highway department into winter an “emergency,” which means the county does not need to use the bidding process to hire a contractor.
“The department presently works under conditions such that any prolonged period of time (...) is really unacceptable,” said Rossi. County Administrator Tim O’Hearn added after the meeting the highway workers have minimal heat in their temporary facilities in the former highway barn.
Rossi added when it comes to the wording of what constitutes an emergency, “the legislature has broad discretion.” He said if the legislature thinks highway employees will be potentially harmed by the working conditions resulting from the fire, they may want to consider declaring an emergency.
During public comment, resident Mark Rondinaro said he was concerned by the legislature pulling the voting item. He explained bypassing the bidding process could mean “a substantial amount of money” and “undercuts a true emergency situation.”
In other business:
• The legislature approved increasing Schuyler County Planner Rocky Kambo’s salary by $15,000 retroactively as of Jan. 1, 2013, with an additional $5,000 adjustment effectively Jan. 1, 2014. Before the vote, Legislator Barbara Halpin made a motion to table the increase and review all county employee salaries that could be increased during budget time. She added she believed Kambo had accepted the position with a set $45,000 salary for 2013. The motion was voted down by all present legislators except Halpin and Doris Karius. Legislator Phil Barnes voted against tabling the decision, but added the county should review salaries for other employees that deserve an increase. He justified increasing Kambo’s salary because of the county-wide projects currently underway, including the Schuyler comprehensive plan. During public comment before the vote, County Records Management Director Kathy Walruth called the increase “a slap in the face for all of us.” She said county management and confidential positions recognize Schuyler is a small county and make sacrifices to balance the budget.
• The legislature approved construction of the electronic sign in front of the county courthouse. This is the second location for the sign, which was originally intended to be on the northern end of the courthouse lawn near the veterans memorials. However, veterans expressed issues with the proximity to the memorials. Resident Alan Hurley pointed out the work was started before the legislature even approved it. When asked, Legislative Chairman Dennis Fagan said moving the sign cost an additional $3,600. Hurley said, “I know it’s a pittance, but pittance adds up. Things are not being done right. It’s all your fault,” and added, “You’ve got to get your act together because there is an election coming up.” Fagan said, “we screwed up. I’ll be the first to admit that.” He added the county met with veterans about relocating the new sign.