Negotiations will begin next week between a contractor and Jasper County Commissioners over specifics of a contract to make needed repairs to the Jasper County Jail in Carthage.
In a meeting on Wednesday, commissioners decided to negotiate with Cornerstone Detention Products, of Tanner, Ala., over precise details of the repairs that will be made to a jail that has a number of problems.
Cornerstone initially offered a request for proposals for $940,000 to repair the jail. The other contractor considered on Wednesday, Norment Security Group, Montgomery, Ala., offered a similar package of repairs at a price of $1,050,000.
Presiding Commissioner John Bartosh said the commissioners and Sheriff Archie Dunn will start negotiations with Cornerstone next week over a final package of repairs.
“Now we’ll go from the Taj Mahal package to the Holiday Inn in negotiations,” Bartosh said. “We’ll negotiate to try to get the price down to something closer to what we expected.”
Bartosh said the commissioners have budgeted $550,000 to repair aged and worn locks that won’t lock, a 20-year-old security system that is prone to failure, rust and a failing fire alarm system that tends to go off without warning.
Paul Chastant, a senior assistant with Carter Gobel Lee, a planning company that has worked with the county for more than four years on jail and courthouse issues, led Wednesday’s meeting by telephone.
Members of the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office Advisory Panel, a group of residents formed by Dunn, asked the commissioners to consider a third company, SimplexGrinnell, before choosing a company.
SimplexGrinnell designed the electronic security system that is in place now.
“After a brief review/presentation by the SimplexGrinnell company representative, there can be substantially less taxpayers’ dollars required for the like upgrades presented by the two bidding companies, Cornerstone Security and Norment Group,” said David Bennett, chairman of the advisory panel, in a written statement to the commissioners.
Chastant warned that hearing from a third company at this point in the process would require starting over with the bid process and could result in losing the bidders that have placed bids currently.
Chastant and the commissioners questioned why SimplexGrinnell did not submit a request for proposal during the bid process.
After the meeting, the commissioners said they would have liked to hear from SimplexGrinnell because their system had lasted 20 years, but they were offering a closed system that only they could have worked on.
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Some sheriff’s officials said they heard Chastant or the county officials say that a bid from SimplexGrinnell would not be considered, but Chastant and the commissioners denied that. They said SimplexGrinnell was given the chance to offer a qualifying bid, and that bid would have required them to offer an open security system that could be worked on by anyone.
The commissioners said they will start negotiating with Cornerstone next Thursday. If the county and Cornerstone could not reach an agreement with a price acceptable to the county, negotiations would move on to the second company Norment.
If an agreement can’t be reached with that company, the bid process would be reopened and start over again.