Douglas County Commission approves jail security upgrades, despite bid coming in over initial budget
photo by: Dylan Lysen
Although the Douglas County Commission approved a $1.03 million project to upgrade security at the county jail during its meeting on Wednesday, one commissioner was concerned about the cost of the project.
Commissioner Patrick Kelly asked why the project’s proposed contract with B.A. Green Construction came in higher than the county’s original estimation. B.A. Green Construction, which submitted the lower of two bids, offered to do the project for $915,000. However, the bid came in higher than the county’s original estimated cost of the project, $750,000.
“This is a pretty large (difference),” Kelly said.
The commission originally listed the consideration of the contract as part of its consent agenda, meaning it would be considered in one motion with several other items. But Kelly asked to bring it up for discussion so he could ask about the cost discrepancy for the contract.
Capt. Wes Houk, a jail administrator for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, said the original bidding process for the project brought back offers that would have cost twice as much as the county’s estimation, which the sheriff’s office declined. He said the sheriff’s office then put the project up for a second bidding process.
photo by: Dylan Lysen
B.A. Green Construction’s offer also included alternate options that would have allowed for more security improvements, but the sheriff’s office chose not to include them because of the cost, Houk said. According to the contract listed in county documents, the sheriff’s office rejected “slider door improvements,” which would have cost an additional $242,000.
“We’re basically already scaling back as much as we could,” Houk said.
Houk noted the upgrades are needed because the security system in the jail has not been updated since the jail was built. Previously, Sheriff Ken McGovern told the commissioners in a February memo that the majority of the jail’s security system was 20 years old and would need to be replaced to maintain safety and security.
To pay for the project, McGovern said $670,000 of the costs would be funded by sheriff’s office funds and $245,000 would be funded by the county’s capital improvement fund.
County Administrator Sarah Plinsky said the $245,000 from that fund is available to use for the project because it is not currently allocated to anything and is serving as a contingency fund in the county’s current budget.
“It would impact the contingency funding, but that’s available for situations like this,” she said.
The remaining costs of the $1.03 million project include contingency funds for the project and the county’s professional service fees, such as the $85,000 in design services that Treanor Architects provided when the project was originally approved in February.
In other business, the commission approved waiving its formal bidding process to allow county staff to negotiate the purchase of new software for its tax system.
In a memo to the commission, IT Director Jim Lawson asked the commissioners to waive the process so that his office could negotiate the purchase from Tyler Technologies. He estimated the total cost would be around $900,000, which can be paid through the county treasurer’s and county clerk’s IT funds. County staff is expected to bring back a negotiated contract for final approval.
The county uses the software to levy real property, personal property, state assessed and special taxes, produce tax bills, collect taxes and distribute the collected taxes to the proper authorities. It is also used to provide the public with value and tax data and the ability to pay their taxes online.
Lawson told the commissioners Wednesday that a county steering committee began working in 2017 to replace the county’s current tax system software — which it has been using since 2008 — because of concerns that the company that provides it will not do business in Kansas in the future.
“We’re very concerned they are going to stop doing business in Kansas and we are going to be left high and dry,” Lawson said. “We really feel we need to look into something else.”
To replace it, the committee suggested purchasing the software from Tyler Technologies, which the Johnson County government recently began using. Tyler Technologies already provides software to Douglas County for its appraisal system.
Lawson said the steering committee often communicated with the Johnson County government to see how its new system was working and found it experienced a smooth transition. The committee also went to Johnson County to receive demonstrations on the technology.
Kelly said he appreciated how much work Lawson and the steering committee did to investigate the Tyler Technologies program before asking to waive the bidding process.
“Usually I would be nervous about avoiding the bidding process,” he said. “Thank you for your work on that. That gives me more comfort voting for this.”
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