BOC rescinds bid proposal, reconsiders IGA deal
The Newton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) voted Tuesday night to rescind a RFQP #16-06A (Request for Qualifications and Proposals) from March 2016. The RFPQ solicited bids for solid waste service for the unincorporated parts of Newton County.
The move will end the current bidding process for a contract to provide solid waste services for the county. Included in the bid request was stipulation that required “Furnishing all materials and equipment and performing all labor necessary for the operation of a mandatory/ volunteer curbside collection program …” The word “mandatory” in the document had been a point of contention for many citizens.
Commissioner Ronnie Cowan who proposed the move said the “rescission of the initial RFQPI eliminates the opportunity for that contract to be accepted. The RFQPI was initiated by the BOC last March therefore we have the authority to rescind the request.”
Commissioners Nancy Schulz, Lanier Sims, Stan Edwards and J.C. Henderson spoke in favor of the move, which was unanimously approved. County attorney Megan Martin told commissioners that a new procurement process would need to be issued by the BOC prior to any future bids for solid waste service in the county.
The commission chamber erupted in applause after the vote.
BOC sends IGA back to subcommittee
The BOC also voted to send its intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the Solid Waste Authority (SWA) back to the joint BOC/SWA subcommittee for further revision.
The board had voted earlier in the meeting to rescind the RFPQI initiated by the BOC in March 2016 soliciting a bid to provide solid waste services to unincorporated areas of the county.
The revised IGA had been worked on during a joint subcommittee meeting March 14. Subsequent to that meeting, according to attorney Sam VanVolkenburgh, there was an email exchange with further proposed revisions.
“The Solid Waste Authority met on Thursday (March 16) and approved a revised IGA amendment document with a couple of key changes to what was initially proposed after the subcommittee meeting,” VanVolkenburgh said.
VanVolkenburgh went on caution the commissioners that due to a tight deadline, any further revisions suggested by the BOC would require a quick consideration and approval by the SWA.
Cowan, a member of the subcommittee, told the board he could not, in good faith, advise anybody to agree to the terms of the new IGA. He said that rescinding the RFPQ and removing the idea of mandatory curbside service from the discussion was helpful.
“We still have some issues over there that we are in disagreement on,” Cowan said. “We want to get it right before we sign it.”
Schulz, who is also a member of the SWA, said she thinks both parties are very close. She said she also has concerns she would like more clarity on. She, too, agreed rescinding the March 2016 bid request will be helpful.
“I believe that the action we took earlier tonight does give the public the confidence that the Advanced contract is now off the table because we have removed that RFQPI,” Schulz said.
She said it is important the board communicates its confidence in the SWA and everybody understands that actions taken by the board are to protect Newton County.
Edwards and Sims spoke in favor of keeping convenience centers open. Both also suggested that the public should be charged enough to use the centers for the county to at least break even.
“The citizens, the ones that I’ve talked to, understand that free trash is over. Convenience centers, curbside and landfill,” Edwards said. “I’ve said all along charge enough so we, at a minimum, break even at the convenience centers.”
“Many citizens do love the convenience centers, but we have to charge an appropriate price to cover those costs or at least get us close to break even,” Sims said.
Cowan said it important in the final plan to find a way to utilize local haulers and find a place for the convenience centers.
County Manager Lloyd Kerr suggested the commissioners make their priorities for the agreement known to the subcommittee in order to expedite the process.
The vote to return the IGA to the subcommittee was approved 5-0.
Board approves new Code of Ethics
The board also reviewed and approved the county’s new Code of Ethics.
According to the new policy, its purpose is to “establish, promote and enforce standards of ethical conduct for all of the county’s officers and employees.”
The policy lays out the circumstances under which county employees and officials may and may not accept gifts. It also explains conflict of interest rules governing employees and officials involved in private businesses who want to do business with the county.
Conflicts of interest in employment and hiring are also covered in the ethics code. According to the policy, no employee or official can appoint or hire any member of their family to fill an office, position or duty when the salary, pay or compensation comes out of public funds. The word “family” is defined in the policy.
The policy also requires any person submitting bids or proposals for county work who has contributed $250 or more to a county official to disclose on their bid the name of the official and the amount of the contribution.
Under the new code, board members along with the chairman are required to “immediately disclose publicly the nature and extent of any financial or personal interest in any proposed legislation or action before the board.” It also requires other county employees and officials who give official recommendations or opinions on legislation to publicly disclose any financial interest they have in the proposed legislation.
The new policy also includes language about a county ethics panel and lays out the rules governing who is on it, its powers and when it can be empaneled.
The new code was approved by the BOC by a 5-0 vote, with exceptions for any departments or offices not subject to the Code of Ethics.
Procurement and check writing policy finalized
After weeks of consideration, the board approved a procurement and check writing policy.
The new policy requires adequate supporting documentation before any check is issued. It also states that payment checks to vendors shall not be issued by the finance department until the department head or other authorized department employee has approved the invoice or other supporting documents. According to the policy, this is necessary to make sure that no checks are issued just because an invoice has been approved.
The policy requires that department heads or authorized employees “carefully check the invoice, assure that the goods have been received in good condition and correct quantity (or that the service has been adequately performed) prior to approving payment.”
The new policy states checks can only be signed by authorized signers. The Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, the County Manager and the County Finance Director are authorized to sign checks. All county checks must be signed by two signers. BOC members are authorized signers in the absence of the Chairman, County manager of Finance Director.
Many citizens do love the convenience centers, but we have to charge an appropriate price to cover those costs or at least get us close to break even.” — Lanier Sims, Newton County commissioner