by Stephanie Eaton
The Platte County Jail Committee members found themselves facing resistance from the county commission on Monday night.
The jail committee has requested having an outside architectural firm research if the current jail facility capacity could be expanded in the basement “futures” area and what the cost would be.
During Monday’s jail coommittee meeting, Platte County Commissioner Beverlee Roper responded to a request made by the committee to see if the county could hire the architectural firm of Williams Spurgeon Kuhl & Feshnock (WSKF) to provide preliminary drawings of how many beds could be placed in the futures area of the jail and what the cost would be to utilize that futures area.
WSKF is the architectural firm that was involved in the original construction of the current jail facility.
Roper attended the meeting after receiving an email from committee member Dagmar Wood asking if the committee could hire the architectural firm for a preliminary drawing.
The committee also wanted to know what impact the hiring would have on the Request for Qualification (RFQ) process that is already in place.
Previously, sheriff department officials told the committee that eight architectural firms responded to the county's RFQ. An RFQ process helps county officials determine if the architectural firm is qualified to build a jail, but it is not an official bid.
County officials narrowed the candidates down to three. Wood said WSKF officials did not respond to the RFQ because they were not made aware of the request.
However, WSKF officials toured the facility two weeks ago with jail committee members Galen Dean, Paul Dobbie and Wood and commissioner Roper.
While initially Roper appeared favorable about her experience on the tour, she finally told the committee that all three county commissioners do not support the idea of hiring the firm for preliminary drawings.
“I want to first thank Dagmar for tracking this guy (WSKF official) down,” Roper said. “You have no idea. That is exactly the information that we got out of him that we needed. I cannot thank her enough for having that guy in front of us that day. We learned things that (Sheriff) Mark Owen did not know. It was amazing.”
While Roper said she learned a lot on the tour and thanked Wood for coordinating the tour, she said that was not enough to make commissioners want to hire the firm.
“In terms of hiring him to do anything, the commission is going to say no on that in respect to money. We do not feel that we want that at this point. That is a unanimous decision by every one of us.”
Roper also blamed the RFQ process on why commissioners did not feel comfortable going with WSKF.
“What one of the commissioners is saying and the other commissioner is going along with it, and I will go along with it at this point: Because we are in the RFQ process we can't go outside of it at this point and they (WSKF officials) didn't respond. This firm is not part of the RFQ response. Although, they received a notice of it.”
Wood said although the sheriff fulfilled his legal obligation to post the RFQ process, she said when she spoke to WSKF officials they said they had requested from the sheriff their company be put on the bid list twice and sheriff officials never responded.
Wood said when she approached the sheriff about the accusations from WSKF officials the sheriff did not deny the company's claims that the sheriff’s department did not put them on a list notifying them of the county's request for bids.
Roper said commissioners never spoke to the sheriff about the request to hire WSKF officials “Okay, we were speaking among us (commissioners) and we did not speak to Sheriff Owen directly about this. We need to go back to him.”
Committee chairman Jim Roberts then said the RFQ process was just a request for qualifications and was not a part of the preliminary drawings. Roper disagreed.
“I do not think that it is entirely different,” Roper said. “The fact is the futures area would be a part of whatever it was we were asking for a bid on.”
Committee members then questioned whether or not commissioners had gotten legal advice from Bob Shaw, county counselor, about whether or not the hiring of WSKF would be in conflict with the RFQ. Roper said no.
“No. We have not gone that far. If you want us to, we will,” Roper answered.
Committee member Jeff Watson thought WSKF would be the perfect firm to give an objective opinion about the jail expansion.
“If they are not going to be a part of the end process of it they may be the exact people we need to give us an objective viewpoint of what we really can do down there, particularly since they have the history of knowing what it was built for to begin with or how it was built to begin with,” Watson said. “If they are not in the running for anything they are definitely going to be way more objective than somebody who thinks they are going to make some money off of it. I hate to see the commissioners skip over a dollar to pick up a dime by saying, 'no' to something that could tell us a whole lot.”
Woods concurred with Watson and said WSKF would be the best firm to get an honest opinion.
“We would hire an architect to consult with us to give us their objective opinion to maximizing the space in futures. They have no dog in the fight.”
After hearing the committee's concerns, Roper said she would go back to the commissioners and address the topic again.