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County commissioners have plenty to do in 2012

January 05, 2012
OSSIPEE — The new year continues a full agenda for county commissioners with several unresolved items from 2010.

Bonnet, Page and Stone (BPS) was the lone bidder and gave commissioners a quote of $375,000 to install the two pellet boilers that are intended to supply heat for the county's new nursing home. The boilers were purchased with $400,000 federal stimulus money and are projected to save the county thousands in heating fuel costs. Nursing home residents moved into the new home in September and so far this winter it is being heated with the more costly propane backup system.

The BPS bid was discussed in public session, including the bid amount, at the commissioner's Dec. 28 meeting. After much discussion with BPS representative Randy Remick and the public in attendance at the meeting, the commissioners decided to rebid the project and try to solicit less expensive bids after Remick left the room. Remick had objected to the rebidding process, citing unfairness similar to "playing poker with your cards on the table." Remick had told commissioners that if the contractors could have done the work while they were already onsite constructing the nursing home, the cost would have been less. Remick's original bid had been $300,000 but a recent change to the Davis-Bacon Act (a federal labor law that controls worker wages on federally-subsidized projects) has now increased the cost to do the job by $75,000. The prevailing legal wage for this area will now be based on the higher wage paid in the state's Seacoast communities. When asked at the Dec. 21 meeting how bids were solicited, county finance manager Kathy Garry said the request for proposals was sent directly to five potential bidders and advertised on the county's Web site, with BPS being the only company that submitted a proposal. Sorensen also, in part, blamed the delay in getting the boilers installed on the county delegation's lack of decision-making as to the fate of the old nursing home that will house the boilers.

In other nursing home news, commissioners announced the Director of Nursing, Cheryl Delisle, has resigned effective Jan. 31. The position is being advertised.

Budget season

County budget season is in full swing and the commissioners have prepared their final 2012 budget that will now be dissected and approved by the county delegation. The delegation's sheriff subcommittee meets next Jan. 9 at 10 a.m. and the full delegation will meet Jan. 16 at 9 a.m. Both meetings are open to the public and held at the county administration building on County Farm Road in Ossipee.

County jail

Last month's jail escape brought attention to security measures needed at the facility. Superintendent Jason Johnson has been working on getting bids for making improvements to the recreation yard and also creating a more secure perimeter around the entire building. At the Dec. 28 meeting, Commissioner David Sorensen said there was an incident when someone from outside the jail was able to walk right up to a female inmate's window. Johnson said previously there was also an incident of someone from the outside passing contraband through the jail fence.

Commissioners announced they have settled a lawsuit with SMRT, designers of the jail. The settlement is to repair a wall at the eight-year-old jail. Commissioner Dorothy Solomon said the repairs are expected to be $29,000 with $16,000 in legal fees associated with the suit.

Non-Public Minutes

Commissioners continue to take a lot of heat from regular attendees of their weekly meetings on whether or not non-public session minutes can be released.

For months former commissioner Chip Albee as well as members of the press and citizens has been asking the commissioners to release minutes of their non-public sessions. The common theme among their requests is whether or not the commission board is protecting one of their own. At the Dec. 21 meeting, Albee pressed the issue once again that elected officials are not protected under the state's right-to-know law and any complaints brought up about them are public information and not allowable for closed-door discussion. The commissioners have relied on another elected official, the county attorney, for advice regarding the release of non-public minutes and have not released any in months. They were expected to take up the issue again at their Jan. 4 meeting after press deadline.

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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