By KAREN LA PIERRE

klapierre@dailynews.net

In a meeting that grew somewhat heated at times over invoices and new employees, the Ellis County Commission discussed a wide variety of items Monday night at its regular meeting.

Sparking the most controversy was the courthouse and law enforcement center project inspection proposal, the CIC-RVI data conversion proposal, and additional employees for the treasurer's office.

A representative from Treanor Architects requested  $29,066 for project inspection services required by the international building code at the new courthouse/LEC.

They are all code-required special inspections, which would be performed by Kaw Valley Engineering.  

Commissioner Dean Haselhorst wanted to know why the amount wasn't included in the bid specs.

"Who can answer that question?" he asked.

He said the commission should have been told about it.  

The Treanor representative said if it had been included in the bid specs, there would have been a 15-percent markup for the general contractor, and she thought it was included in the overall project estimate because it is required.

"We should have known about it ahead of time," said Greg Sund, county administrator.

"The architect should have warned us about it ahead of time," said Commissioner Barbara Wasinger.

Haselhorst said he wanted Treanor to come back and tell them why it's not included.

"They can eat the $30,000," he said. "Are the taxpayers going to eat it, or is Treanor going to eat it?"

The motion to approve the inspection passed 2-1, with Haselhorst voting against.

The commissioners approved a $7,486 change order for an IT power cable relocation at the courthouse. A conduit under the breezeway no one knew existed was discovered during the demolition process, and a server feeder line was inadvertently severed.

The amount includes the cost to run new line and repair the line.

The motion was approved unanimously.

Another invoice, from Computer Information Concepts, requested $21,465 for converting files from the former county computer system to the new one.

Wasinger wanted to know if there was ongoing maintenance fee.

"Clearly something has to be done" to preserve the files, Wasinger said. "I just know these people are going to come back" for a maintenance fee.

"We could spend a million dollars, and they would come back and say, 'We forgot to tell you.' This is crazy."

There is a contract on record, and commissioners directed Sund to look at the original contract to check on what was included. He is also to check to see if the commission can wait a few weeks to approve the invoice.

"I just want to know how much it's going to cost us to take care of (the conversion)," Wasinger said.

"For as much as we've paid them over the past year, they can extend that son-of-a-bucket, and we'll have Bill Jeter talk to them," Haselhorst said.

In her report, Ann Pfeifer, Ellis County treasurer, said two of her employees retired at the end of 2014, and they are rehiring those positions effective March 1 -- saving several months' salary.

"During this two-month timeframe, we have received multiple complaints from taxpayers,"   Pfeifer said.

She estimated they had received 30 to 50 complaints.

Pfeifer said people have had to wait up to an hour-and-a-half, although not all of the time.

"Are you documenting that?" Wasinger asked. "Are you explaining to them that we have a $2 million shortfall and in order to make sure that they don't have to wait as long, they may have to pay more in taxes?

"My heart goes out to you that people are waiting in line. (But) I can't believe they are doing it every day."

The treasurer recommends coming in at 8 a.m. Tuesday to Thursday to help avoid the crowds. Taxpayers can also pay online or drop their payment with proof of insurance and renewal at a drop box in the alley on the south side of the administration building.

Taxpayers who will receive tag decals are eligible to drop off payment.  

The treasurer's office will process the renewal in 24 hours. Pfeifer also encouraged people not to wait until the last day of the month to renew license tags.

Wasinger was unhappy about the new employees who have been hired.  

"I don't think you are listening," she said. "I don't think you want to listen. I don't think you want to do what we talked about at the last budget discussion and how we need to be waiting."

Pfeifer said she had talked to Sund, and more often than not, there were a lot of lines.

"I understand that you want us to try and wait," she said.

The positions were advertised before they knew the commissioners wanted them to wait, Pfeifer said.

Wasinger said that wasn't to punish her or the public, but to try and figure out finances.

"I think you shouldn't be doing it, and we asked you not to," Wasinger said.

In other business, the commission:

* Approved a bid for the stairwell infill at the Administrative Center.

* Heard a report from the city of Ellis, the Ellis County Extension office, bridge inspections, public health, Emergency Medical Services and the Schibi lease for court services.

* Heard a request for a report on the wage-and-benefit study, which is supposed to be finished soon.