Hawkins Sheriff says objection to architect's fee could hinder operations

Jeff Bobo • May 15, 2013 at 11:46 AM

ROGERSVILLE — A decision by two Hawkins County commissioners to oppose a budget amendment Monday because they object to paying an architect’s fee may have serious implications for the sheriff’s office.

Sheriff Ronnie Lawson needs to move slightly more than $100,000 from within his budget to cover higher than anticipated gasoline and inmate food expenditures.

But, that budget amendment was not approved Monday by the county commission’s Budget Committee.

Lawson told the Times-News Tuesday if the full commission fails to approve his budget amendments during the May 20 meeting he won’t have funds in June to feed inmates or put fuel in patrol cars.

The Budget Committee has a practice of considering general fund budget amendments for all county office holders in the same budget amendment resolution.

That means a proposed $12,000 amendment to cover the cost of an architect designing three county building roofing projects is in the same resolution this month as budget amendments from the county mayor’s office, election commission, county clerk, county court clerk, juvenile court, health department, agricultural extension agency, property assessor and the sheriff’s office.

During Monday’s meeting there were only five of the seven Budget Committee members present. District 1 commissioner Thomas Wheeler has resigned and won’t be replaced until the May 20 meeting; and District 3 Commissioner Stacy Vaughan is recovering from a shoulder injury.

The new roofs are planned for three county buildings in Rogersville including the Courthouse Annex next door to the main county courthouse, the Rogersville Depot on Broadway Street, and the county Administrative Building on Washington Street.

Budget Committee members Virgil Mallett and Fred Castle voted against the overall budget amendment resolution Monday because they felt the proposed $12,000 architect fee is a waste of money. Castle and Mallett suggested that an architect wasn’t needed to tell the roofers how to do their job.

“Tennessee code says otherwise,” County Mayor Melville Bailey told the commission’s Buildings Committee Tuesday. “(State law) says any time you are spending over $25,000 on a project, then you either need an engineer or an architect.”

The entire budget amendment resolution failed Monday by a vote of 3-2 with Mallett and Castle opposed. Event though it received yes votes from a majority of those present, a majority of the full seven members, or four votes, is needed for approval.

Architect Don Solt has a long history of performing architectural duties for the Hawkins County School System. Bailey said Solt is currently drawing up the specifications for the three proposed roof projects.

Bailey noted that the annex and the administration project will be more than $25,000 each, and there is insurance money available for the projects from the 2011 hail storm damage.

The Budget Committee is only a recommending body. The full county commission will have the final say on the budget amendment resolution on May 20.

Lawson was seeking to move funds from within his own budget to cover the cost of, among other things, $65,000 for jail inmate food and $36,843 for patrol car fuel.

Both expenditures were underestimated in this year’s budget.

The jail, which opened in 2010 with a 232 inmate capacity, is now averaging 260 inmates per day.

Lawson said his deputies are making more arrests, and as a result they’re spending more time on the road and have more inmates to feed.

“I just wonder if there is a way to consider certain issues like an architect separately so that we don’t have to throw out an entire resolution over one $12,000 budget amendment,” Lawson said.

During Tuesday’s Buildings Committee meeting Bailey asked the members in attendance to support the overall budget amendment resolution on May 20, including the architect.

“The roofs do need replacing, and we have to have an architect,” Bailey said. “It will be brought before the full commission without a recommendation from the Budget Committee.”

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