November 21st, 2011
The November meeting of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners began with discussion of a resolution approving a new Debt Management Policy for CumberlandCounty. I am the Chairman of the Debt Management Committee that was recently formed to create this policy and to try and get a handle on the County’s debt. Currently, our county has approximately $65 million in debt. Forty three percent of the debt is in variable rate debt, thirty six percent is in synthetic rate debt, and only twenty one percent is in fixed rated debt. Synthetic rate debt is a nice name for derivatives. I personally have significant issues with having any synthetic rate debt. I also believe our variable rate debt is too high and has the possibility of leaving the county vulnerable. In actuality, synthetic rate debt is also counted as variable so the county has seventy nine percent of outstanding debt in variable rates. This is too high. The new debt policy attempts to address these issues. For example, an objective of 65/35 fixed to variable rate debt is set. Also, no new debt will be issued that engages in interest swap agreements or derivative arrangements. Many new safeguards are also set in the new policy. The completed policy and our statement of debt can be found online at my website, http://allenfoster.net, on the Documents of Interest page. If you have any comments or questions concerning the new policy, please let me know.
Several more routine issues were approved during the meeting as well. The closure of the end of the county road known as Franklin Street was approved upon request. The renaming of BassesCreekBridge to the FrederickA.HasslerMemorialBridge was forwarded to the state. Several routine budgets resolutions were also approved.
The only other item of importance on the agenda was the naming of new members to the Health and Safety Standards Board. Randy Elmore, Nancy Hyder, Darrell Comer, Brain Jones, and Nick Hedgecoth were appointed by the Mayor. A motion failed to have the individuals voted on individually. I supported that motion as I believe any Commissioner should have the right to approve these appointments on an individual basis rather than as a group. I supported the motion for the appointments of the new individuals even though I would have preferred that the two individuals that resigned but requested to be placed back on the board would have been appointed.
November 28th, 2011
On Monday, November 28, 2011 at 5:00 PM, the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners held a closed door session to discuss legal matters concerning Hewlett Spencer, LLC. The closed door session was immediately followed by an open door meeting at 5:20 PM.
Hewlett Spencer, LLC was originally contracted back in 2005 to build the expansion of the JusticeCenter and county jail at a rate of $45,000 for professional services plus the cost of architectural, engineering and development. In September of 2007, Steve Hewlett of Hewlett Spencer, LLC presented a guaranteed maximum price of $18,735,388 for the project to the Commission. After much discussion, the CountyCommission voted to reject the bid and decided to bid the project again. In January of 2008, Mid-State Construction won the new bid in the amount of $14,365,263. This bid amount included significant contingency funds as well as the cost of asbestos removal, architect, and engineering fees. Shortly thereafter, in February of 2008, Hewlett Spencer, LLC submitted a bill in the amount of $304,352.09 for time worked on the project. In December of 2008, Hewlett Spencer, LLC filed a lawsuit against CumberlandCounty seeking that amount.
Since that time, lawyers from both sides have been working on the issue. Attempts to settle the lawsuit have failed in the past, but another attempt was made recently. During the closed session, the details of the most recent mediation session were presented to the County Commission by County Attorney Randal Boston, attorney Douglas Fields (also representing Cumberland County), and the mediator of the case, Judge John Turnbull. After discussion during the open meeting portion of the session, the Commission agreed in a 16 – 0 vote (Commissioners Houston and McNeil were unable to attend) to pay $125,000 to Hewlett Spencer, LLC to close the case. Hewlett Spencer LLC will pay court costs, mediation costs and the expenses for Judge Turnbull’s attendance at the CountyCommission’s meeting. I voted for this motion as I believe it is the best resolution for the County. This will put an end to this drawn out process and put the lawsuit behind us.
Your feedback is important to me. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to give me a call or send me an email. Thank you for allowing me to serve the 4th District and Cumberland County.