Nixon- Sheriff's OK on bill not enough

Saturday, February 8, 2003

The contractor who installed a new heating and air-conditioning unit at the Scott County Jail in 2001 will have to talk to the sheriff's bonding company if he wants to get paid, Attorney General Jay Nixon says.

The Scott County Commission refused to pay the $9,730 bill after Sheriff Bill Ferrell authorized installation of a heating and cooling unit on his own. The commission subsequently asked the attorney general's opinion about its obligations. In an opinion sent to the county Jan. 31, Nixon said all county contracts in excess of $4,500 must be given by competitive bidding. He also stated that the county "cannot pay for services for which it was not legally obligated to pay. ..."

Ferrell has argued that the situation was an emergency because the air-conditioning unit failed in August when temperatures were over 100 degrees. If he had waited, he would have had to transfer prisoners to another facility at a cost of $1,350 per day, the sheriff said.

Nixon said no provision in the statutes is made for emergencies.

"Even though the sheriff is in charge of the jail, he cannot bind the county when the competitive bidding procedures are not followed," he wrote.

The bill is owed to Bridger Heating & Air Conditioning of Sikeston, Mo. Nixon said the sheriff would be obligated on his bond under the statute. All officeholders are required to be bonded.

Friday, Ferrell said the issue is "out of my hands. I hate to see him not be paid for the thing."

From his point of view, he saved taxpayers thousands of dollars.

"If this bill doesn't get paid, I guess I've saved them thousands more," Ferrell said.

Contractor Kenny Bridger could not be reached for comment.

sblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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