Editor’s note: This is the first of a series of articles concerning the county’s spending on infrastructure and other projects led by IMS Engineers.
Four months and $108,539.12 later, members of the Washington County Board of Supervisors continue to make their positions clear when it comes to spending costs on county infrastructure.
After the board’s July 20 regular meeting, at which an invoice of $32,592.50 from IMS was approved for payment by a 3-2 vote of the BOS, vice-president Lee Gordon said, “We are concerned about the increase we are paying in our general services to this firm (IMS Engineers).”
BOS president Carl McGee, who seemed equally perturbed by the invoice amount from the Jackson-based firm, voted opposed along with Gordon.
“We are paying 1,200% percent more for general services than we have in the past,” Gordon said. “I’m very concerned about what it’s costing the taxpayers.”
Both McGee and Gordon discussed the engineering department’s line-item for general services and how it has been managed in recent years compared to now.
With a line-item, or proposed budget of $35,000 for the engineering department, the previous fiscal year ended with an unencumbered, or unspent balance of $26,186.80.
The county began this current fiscal year with a line-item budget of $35,000; $108,539.12 of that line-item has been expended — $91,051 of which was accrued by IMS Engineers in roughly three months.
With two months to go in the fiscal year, the engineering department already has an unencumbered negative balance of $73,539.12.
As McGee and Gordon pointed out, there lies a glaring difference between the last four years’ percentage rate of expenditures and the current rate as it pertains to the engineering department’s line-item based on the county’s general ledger budgeted expenditures.
For the fiscal year 2015-2016, the county expended $13,000 out of a $50,000 line-item at a rate of 26%.
For the fiscal year 2016-2017, the county’s engineering department had no expenditures, leaving an unencumbered, or unspent balance of $50,000.
For the fiscal year 2017-2018, the county expended $14,260 out of a $50,000 line-item at the rate of 28.5%, leaving an unencumbered balance of $35,740.
For the fiscal year 2018-2019, the county expended $8,813.20 out of a $35,000 line-item at the rate of 25.1%, leaving an encumbered balance of $26,186.00.
For the fiscal years 2015-2019, the county expended a total of only $36,073.20.
For the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, the county has expended $108,539.12 of a $35,000 line-item at the rate of 310.1%.
Not included in the expenditures are the salaries for county engineer, Lorenzo Anderson and assistant engineer, Jeron Collins, who earn $30,000 and $15,558.48, respectively.
With the addition of fringe benefits, Anderson and Collins earn a total salary of roughly $45,000 and $27,000 respectively.
As of April 20, the board of supervisors entered an order authorizing modification of the general services agreement for professional services by and between the WCBS and IMS Engineers regarding termination to state “30 days with notice from either party.”
As detailed in the WCBS’ general services agreement with IMS, the principal engineer is paid at a rate of $223 per hour; project manager — $125 per hour; engineering assistant — $52-60 per hour; Computer Aided Design and Drafting (CADD) technician — $65 per hour; surveying supervisor — $90 per hour and administrative assistant II — $62 per hour.
The amount of the first invoice received by the county from IMS for the period of service beginning from IMS’ “notice to proceed” until March 15 was $14,720.
According to the accompanying status report, engineers assessed drainage issues on Guerdon Road; assessed HVAC equipment serving a portion of the Washington County House with Building and Ground; corresponded with a vendor regarding pricing for the replacement of different HVAC components; reviewed plans of existing HVAC; reviewed permits from Planning and Zoning; assessed damage to the Race Track press box and provided a recommendation to the BOS; assessed drainage issues on East Lake Washington Road Culvert; assessed the Newsouth Mississippi Marine roof; and took photos of the repairs performed by the county road department on Wilcox, Butch Wilson, Club 17 and Avon Darlove roads in an effort to request a reinspection by the State Aid bridge consultant.
The following invoice was in the amount of $43,738.50 for the period of service beginning March 16 and ending April 30.
According to the accompanying status report, engineers performed an assessment on The Jim Henson Delta Boyhood Exhibit in Leland to repair the deck and walking bridge; assessed the condition and submitted a list of roads for the BOS to discuss funding and prioritize construction for programming; reviewed permits from Planning and Zoning; and went to bridge sites to review and/or design repairs performed by the road department on Walker, Bassi, Wilmont and Sandifer roads to request a reinspection by the State Aid bridge consultant.
As detailed by the invoice, the project manager (Anderson) accumulated 276 hours; the second project manager (Tommy Avant) accumulated 10 hours; the engineering assistant (Collins) accumulated 116 hours; the principal engineer accumulated three and a half hours; and the administrative assistant accumulated four hours.
For the period of service beginning May 1 and ending on May 31, an invoice in the amount of $32,592.50 was submitted to the BOS.
The accompanying status report indicated the continuation of previous assessments listed in the first status report, the submission of a list of roads for the BOS to discuss funding and prioritize construction, an investigation into the cause of the leaks in the Newsouth Mississippi Marine roof, assistance with bridge construction of Sandifer Road Bridge and taking measurements and developing preliminary cost for The Jim Henson Delta Boyhood Exhibit deck and walking bridge.
As detailed by the invoice, the project manager (Anderson) accumulated 160 hours; the second project manager (Tommy Avant) accumulated four and a half hours; the engineering assistant (Collins) accumulated 155 hours; the principal engineer accumulated two hours; and the administrative assistant accumulated four and a half hours.
Since April, Gordon has communicated his reservations for the general service agreement to the board and McGee has been like minded in that it warranted a thorough review.
Significant traction has yet to be made in that regard, but McGee highlighted in an April regular meeting the need to consider the local voters’ concerns and interests.
“As president of the board, I’m extremely concerned about this general service agreement with IMS, going forward I would be pleased if the board would reconsider this general service agreement,” McGee said.
Noting the responsibility he has a supervisor to the taxpayers he added, “My personal opinion does not benefit the citizens of Washington County at all.”
The next regular meeting of the WCBS is set for 9 a.m. Monday at the Washington County Extension Building. Not including the supervisors, no more than 10 people are allowed in the general seating area during the meeting.