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Jail seeking a company that can handle bond planning

Barry County Board of Commissioners got a crash course on the latest jails

Barry County commissioners (from left) Ben Geiger, Howard Gibson, Jon Smelker and David Jackson listen Tuesday afternoon to presentations from prospective jail facilitators. Editor Rebecca Pierce

In nearly five hours of interviews Tuesday afternoon, the Barry County Board of Commissioners got a crash course on the latest jails and senior centers – but made no decision on a facilitator.

Commissioners met with representatives from five firms: DLZ with five offices in Michigan; Tower Pinkster from Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo; BYCE & Associates/Securitecture from Kalamazoo; BKV Group from Chicago; and Hooker DeJong/Landmark Design which has five offices in the Midwest.

These firms responded to a request for qualifications for the “Barry County Sheriff’s Department/Jail Facility and Commission on Aging Facility” that was issued by the county May 14.

The county is seeking a company that can handle bond planning, consultation and design services related to the replacement of the jail and sheriff’s department, as well as the Commission on Aging facility.

These projects likely would be based on a voter-approved millage and bond request. That’s why commissioners are seeking a facilitator with a successful track record in launching and running millage campaigns.

Action by the county board earlier this month to proceed with bids on expanding and renovating the county’s transit department building were not included in this solicitation – nor was that project mentioned Tuesday. Commissioners’ unanimous vote to move forward with the transit building renovation provoked strong reaction prior to their vote.

City of Hastings officials and business leaders pointed to the commercial development potential of the property where the transit building and jail facility are located. The county board voted Sept. 11 “to proceed with the attached addition and renovation project as modified to include a gravel parking lot for the Barry County Transit Building as presented by landmark Design Group, PC.”

During that contentious debate about the fate of the transit building, the RFQ for consulting services on the jail and COA facilities issued in May was not mentioned by commissioners.

Tuesday morning, during the regular county board meeting, in her report to the board, commissioner Vivian Conner said COA board members asked her “why there was no mention about the new COA building in our conversations this last month … when we've talked about the jail and transit.”

“It's just easier to say jail facilitator instead of jail and Commission on Aging,” county board Chairman Ben Geiger replied.

Conner said she had to reassure COA board members that the COA is still in the plan.

Tuesday afternoon, in response to a question prior to meeting with candidates for the facilitator opening, Geiger emphasized that the jail and the COA facilities are the commissioners’ top two priorities.

The county’s master facilities plan, completed in 2015, cost the county $62,975. Tower Pinkster handled that plan, which recommended six initiatives, including implementation and financing strategies. To date, the county has completed the first (circuit court building improvements) and second (Tyden Center renovation) initiatives and opted to address Initiative 3 (animal shelter addition/renovation) with a less-expensive alternative that utilizes more efficient equipment.

The COA, sheriff’s department and jail facilities are next, Geiger said.

Now, for the jail and COA projects, key requirements for a facilitator include space utilization analysis; design and construction of public safety/correctional facilities; design and construction of senior services facilities; and development and execution of initiatives to engage the community and inform the electorate on related ballot proposals.

Tuesday, after lengthy presentations and question-and-answer sessions with representatives of the five firms vying for the work, commissioners were unable to reach a decision.

What commissioners noticed is that most firms with a strong background in constructing jail facilities invariably lacked the same extensive background in senior centers. Commissioners also expressed an interest in a firm with local ties.

The commissioners do not yet know how much each firm would charge.

Commissioner David Jackson asked when the firms would give the board their costs for the work.

Geiger replied that he had county administrator Michael Brown hold “onto a packet of information with their costs in there.

“But we don't want to bias ourselves by cost yet until we have a discussion about who's best, who can give us what we're looking for.”

Brown read the references for each of the five firms.

Geiger suggested whittling the finalists down to two or three candidates, but he didn't get any support for that approach.

Commissioner Dan Parker made a motion, supported by Jackson, to seek additional references on the top three firms. But the commissioners could not agree on which three should be at the top of the list. Commissioner Jon Smelker said he would support obtaining references on all five.

At that point, the motion was abandoned and the board agreed to convene next Tuesday for further discussion.

“While we were in this meeting, we had a serious malfunction in the jail,” Geiger told commissioners.

Sheriff Dar Leaf confirmed that a hot water pipe had sprung a leak and flooded a room that houses the department's paper records and a cabinet holding 800 megahertz radios with a value of about $5,000 each.

In its regular board meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday, the board met for 22 minutes.

In that session, commissioners:

-Heard reports from individual commissioners about activities in their respective districts.

-Heard from Crooked Lake resident Deb Englehardt about the continuing problem with flooding and the need for solutions to save lakefront property from rising waters there.

-Approved the State of Michigan Emergency Management Performance Grant agreement for $32,192 toward the coordinator's salary and benefits for fiscal year 2018. Jim Yarger is the county emergency management coordinator.

-Approved the Michigan Department of Agriculture Farmland and Open Space Preservation application, as proposed by Jim McManus, for Richard and Pamela Palmer of Irving Township.

-Approved a text amendment to include adult foster care as a listed use in the portion of the county zoning ordinance that pertains to rural area nursing homes.

-Approved re-appointing members of the County Officers Compensation Commission Teri Enrietti and Steve Buehler, beginning Oct. 1 and expiring Oct. 1, 2022.

The county board will meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2, in the upper level of the Barry County Courthouse in Hastings.

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