To bid or not to bid: Magistrate questions construction projects

·4 min read

Oct. 14—Closing out a routine meeting of Pulaski Fiscal Court Tuesday, District 4 Magistrate Mark Ranshaw went on record objecting to the county is handling a couple of projects currently in the works.

Ranshaw's questions came as the court emerged from a 15-minute executive to discuss real estate, and amounted to his belief that the county should bid out projects costing at least $20,000.

The first topic involved the courthouse facade, which is currently cordoned off by caution tape as Wildcat Builders prepares to update the columns and fascia woodwork.

"Do we have any idea how much that's going to cost the county?" Ranshaw asked.

Judge-Executive Steve Kelley assured the magistrate that both the carpentry and painting (which will be handled by a separate company) should come to less that the $20,000 threshold as established not only in the county's administrative code but also state law.

Ranshaw then transitioned to the coroner's office, which is currently housed within the Pulaski 911 Center off the Ky. 914 bypass but will have to relocate once the 911 Center moves into its new home at the Hal Rogers Fire Training Center.

On Tuesday, 911 Director Aaron Ross advised the court that the transition has been delayed due to the pandemic supply chain issues but that the tentative target date for going live is December 16.

In regard to the coroner's office, Fiscal Court authorized Judge Kelley nearly two months ago to advertise for proposals to construct a metal building but he ultimately didn't after discussing the matter with Coroner Clyde Strunk. The new plan is to relocate beside the Pulaski Rescue Squad on Enterprise Drive.

Ranshaw suggested that the coroner's office could be moved to the room where Fiscal Court typically convened for executive session pre-Covid since the rescue squad's north building already has refrigeration units that can be used by the coroner.

"That's not big enough for a coroner's office," District 5 Magistrate Mike Strunk noted.

"Where's the money coming from?" Ranshaw said, noting his preference to put more into the Road Fund. "How much it's going to cost and all that needs to be decided before any work's done."

Judge Kelley acknowledged some added expense from permits required because the location is within Somerset's city limits but opined the county is saving money by building the structure in-house.

"We spend millions of dollars every year in this county with construction...," Kelley said. "Because we have such expense, we do a yearly bid for contractors...If there's a trust issue, that's the time to deal with it. But once we vote and accept these contractors to do our work, you've got to let me do the best I can to get the work done. It doesn't have to be bid out each time."

As Ranshaw continued to push for large projects to be bid out individually, Kelley said the auditors are "completely fine" with the practice. "That's the way every county does it," the judge added.

"I just believe that we're wasting money by doing it that way," Magistrate Ranshaw countered.

"I think we're saving money," Judge Kelley responded.

At least twice during the discussion, Ranshaw referenced the construction of a bathhouse at Pulaski County Park which he believes cost more than it should have. Kelley had noted that particular project involved more than just the structure itself.

After the meeting, the judge elaborated on the coroner's office.

"We are going to be able to construct it in house mostly," he said, "then use pre-approved vendors for plumbing, electrical, and concrete, etc. We should save about 25% not using a general contractor."

Most of Tuesday's meeting was routine, with regular business wrapping within 30 minutes. The court:

—approved a resolution and related documents for a $200,000 CDBG-CV Utility Grant, which will allow the public to apply for utility assistance with the Lake Cumberland Community Action Agency.

—heard the first reading of an ordinance to refinance the bond which funded construction of the Pulaski County Senior Citizens Center at an estimated savings of $130,000.

—approved a 25 mph speed limit for Cooper Mill Road (District 1).

—authorized advertising for bids on washers and dryers to handle turn out gear for each fire department.

—reminded the public of the Moonlight Festival set for this Saturday in downtown Somerset, and that Halloween hours have been set for 6-9 p.m. on Saturday, October 30.

Due to recent technical difficulties, fiscal court meetings will now be livestreamed on the county website at

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