Policy may be reviewed

The Patrick County Board of Supervisors did not approve or consider a nearly $30,000 project to repair the roof on the building which houses Patrick County Circuit Court, but it is unlikely board approval was needed.

The roof repair falls into the ‘Small Purchases’ category of the procurement policy, which states that “Purchases where the estimated total cost of the materials, equipment, supplies, shipping, insurance, construction, or service are not expected to exceed” $100,000 may be awarded by the county’s purchasing agent.

The county administrator serves as the purchasing agent.

According to the county’s procurement policy, board approval is required projects that cost $100,000 or more.

County Administrator Tom Rose said the project was considered an emergency. The roof was a safety issue and had resulted in leaks. Officials also were concerned that the rotten boards would fail, causing the roof to cave in, he said.

“If it’s something that’s an emergency, we can expedite it pretty quickly,” Rose said.

A sealed bid process was not required because in cases of “Small Purchases,” county staff may solicit bids, according to Rose and a copy of the policy.

Three written bids were received, including two local businesses – Combs and Sons Construction LLC and Hazelwood Construction, and a North Carolina company — Skywalker Roofing, of Stokesdale.

After allowing a 3 percent discount for a lump sum payment, the latter company was the low bidder and subsequently was awarded the project, according to county maintenance staff.

The county’s capital fund – generally $35,000 annually — was tapped to pay for the cost of the project, Rose said. He explained the funds are earmarked for maintenance and other projects. In addition to the roof repair, the allocation this year also is being tapped to pay for digitizing certain county records, he said.

Still, Rose said he thought the board approved the project.

“That would be normal,” for them to do, he said.

Assistant County Administrator Geri Hazelwood said there is no record of approval by the supervisors.

Crystal Harris, of the Smith River District, said she thought up to $10,000 could be spent without board approval, not $100,000. She said she did not recall voting to adopt the procurement policy that went into effect on July 1, 2015,

“That’s poor government. If I did vote for it, that was my bad,” she said, and suggested the policy should be changed to lower the threshold needed for board approval.

Lock Boyce, chairman and of the Mayo River District, said “I wouldn’t think that would be a good thing. I do not recall that vote. It may have been presented incorrectly.”

He said he thought “zero unbudgeted” dollars should be spent without board approval, unless for routine supplies which are included in the budget.

The current procurement policy “should not have been done as a permanent … I don’t think it was ever intended as a standard operating procedure,” Boyce said. “It may have been misrepresented.”

Rickie Fulcher, of the Peters Creek District, said he was aware of the portion of the policy which allows county personnel to solicit quotes, but the policy may need to be reviewed.

Dale Wagoner, assistant county administrator for Henry County, said the county administrator there can spend up to $20,000 of taxpayer funds without approval by the Henry County Board of Supervisors.

If needed, Wagoner said the county administrator can declare a local emergency, which suspends much of the procurement process and allows up to $100,000 to be spent without board approval, to address imminent public safety concerns.

However, the board of supervisors is required to affirm the declared state of emergency within 72 hours, Wagoner said.

When asked the procedure to address roof issues on county buildings there, Wagoner said “we would work with the maintenance staff to implement a temporary” fix, “and call a special meeting of the board of supervisors to address funding issues.”

He added that Virginia law may allow localities to set the $100,000 cap on the amount of funds that can be spent without board approval, “and some localities may do that. We just are a lot more conservative than that.”

Karl Weiss and Jane Scales Fulk could not immediately be reached for comment.

Boyce and Fulk were not on the board when the policy was approved.

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