Crawford County justices of the peace agreed Monday night to go forward with seeking a project manager to oversee construction of the new $20 million detention center.
During a Personnel Committee meeting Monday night, JPs voted 8-1 in favor of a proposal to create a part-time position for a project manager to work with SouthBuild TEAM LLC on construction of the new jail and sheriff’s office. The proposal still will need to be approved by the Crawford County Quorum Court.
Including benefits, yearly pay for the part-time position would be $30,921. The employee would be required to work 24 hours a week.
Crawford County Judge John Hall said the purpose of creating the position would be to keep county officials informed.
"We really and truly need someone right here that’s with us, working for us, to have eyes on the project," Hall said.
SouthBuild was chosen in March 2014 to design and build the detention center over two other groups because of its ability to come in at costs and deadline, and its experience building jails.
As project manager, the employee would be working as a liaison between Hall and Don Abernathy with Smith-Doyle Contractors, a member of the SouthBuild group.
"I would be happy to run the project myself, but there’s just not enough hours in the day," Hall said. "I feel more comfortable this way."
JPs discussed both full time and part time for the project management position, but decided the part-time hours would better serve the county’s needs.
"I think we need to be careful with our money," said JP Mary Blount. "We don’t really know what’s needed, but I think we should stay on the conservative end."
Hall said the position would only last as long as jail construction.
"The day that jail project is over, that position is gone - period," Hall said.
Only one committee member present was opposed to the new position. JP Lloyd Cole voiced his opinion that the county should place its trust in the SouthBuild team and save the additional costs.
"We are paying them a salary of about $1 million to be here every single day… and make sure we are getting what we want," Cole said.
Clark disagreed, and said that while he knows SouthBuild is a reputable group and trustworthy, it was important for the county to have someone on site to "keep them in check." Investing in someone knowledgeable about construction could prevent overspending, he said.
"I’m sure they do have our backs, the architects - to a certain extent," Clark said.
An ordinance outlining the position will go before the quorum court in March.
During the quorum court meeting following the personnel meeting Monday night, Hall asked for a "blessing" from JPs to go ahead with a settlement regarding an eminent domain lawsuit against the county.
At the bequest of the county, courts condemned and seized a property needed by the county for construction of the Pevehouse Bridge.
A $701,250 Federal Emergency Management grant that will pay about 70 percent of total costs of bridge construction was in jeopardy, Hall said.
"We were going to lose that $700,000 grant if we didn’t get that little triangle piece of property," Hall said.
Now family to the property owner are suing on her behalf, and have requested no less than a settlement of $6,000 for the easement on the property, which is valued at about $12,000.
JPs granted Hall leave to counter the offer to prevent taking the issue to court.
JPs also approved an ordinance allowing Stepping Stone School to create a facilities board so that school officials could refinance bonds, at a lower interest rate.
Making up the board will be Gerald Harris, Jean Medlock, Alma Mayor Keith Greene, Elaine Stanfield with the Crawford County Judge’s Office and Toni Wilson, executive director of Stepping Stone.