I was the only non-county employee person present at the meeting.
Commissioners James Cohagan and Greg Hasty were present. Don Williams was absent.
The meeting started off with a bid approval request from the Health Department for a new phone system. Commissioner Cohagan asked what was wrong with the current phone system. No one could answer that question and there were no representatives present from the Health Department present to explain the need. There was only a single bid and Commissioner Hasty stated he didn’t know the Health Department had put the item out for bid. The item was tabled for a later meeting.
The second agenda item was a bid for a 24 foot trailer for the Maintenance Department. The department needs the trailer to haul equipment to conduct off-site maintenance. The bids were very close to each other: $7,995 vs $8,045. The commissioners had difficulty discerning any significant difference between the trailers offered in the bids. No one was present from the Maintenance Department to explain the bids.
There was a discussion between the Camden County Auditor and the commissioners regarding the costs between the Maintenance Department performing maintenance on off-site locations versus contracting the maintenance out. The Auditor mentioned a current contract to maintain and mow one park that is currently costing Camden County approximately $2,500-$3,000 per year. Commissioner Hasty said that the advantage of having the Maintenance Department do the mowing is that those workers are currently budgeted by Camden County and if a park doesn’t need mowing, they don’t have to do it. The outside contracts have to be paid regardless of how much maintenance is needed. This item was tabled for further discussion with the Maintenance Department.
The third agenda item was was regarding appointments to the Senior Citizen Tax Board. The topic was to re-appoint three incumbent members of the board. The commissioners voted to re-appoint them.
The fourth agenda item was a an update to the verbiage of the Accounting Policy. As the Auditor explained it, it sounded like some of these changes were to comply with the requirements of various grants Camden County receives.
The final item was also brought to the Commission by the Auditor. These were harder to follow, but it sounded like there was some movement of funds within departments to address needs, movement of $3,635 in grant money to make it available, and a transfer of a Sheriff position to court security.
And that was that.
This meeting did continue a concerning trend of Camden County departments requesting bids to be approved by the County Commission but not sending any representatives to the meeting to explain why they needed the item or what the differences were between the bids. It puts the Commissioners in the difficult position of trying to weigh the merits of the bids when they might not have any expertise in the subject matter.
The Commissioners should not be expected to weigh which trailer is more suitable or compare which roofing contract sounds like it would be a better long term fix for a building. Unfortunately, what ends up happening is they usually mention that they’ll meet with a department to discuss the bids, but these types of discussions should happen in public. If two commissioners meet to discuss county business, they’ve formed a quorum and that should be a public meeting.
A department representative should be at the meeting to explain to the Commissioners why they need the unbudgeted item and the advantages and disadvantages of each bid. This allows the public to better understand why the Commission selects bids and it creates much more transparency.