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Chairman Defends Hiring Process

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The head of the Lee County Board of Supervisors is defending the hiring of a consulting firm for an upcoming project.

Midwest Construction Consultants will oversee the installation of new cells at the Lee County Correctional Center.

Last week, a resident questioned the board’s decision to hire the firm out of Houghton without seeking bids.

Chairman Rick Larkin addressed the question during this week's meeting.

“It’s a professional contract so we don’t have to go out for bids," says Larkin.  "We went through all the procedures and everything we would have had to have done."

Midwest Construction Consultants oversaw the recent expansion of the jail.

Larkin says he is pleased with how that project turned out and expects the same with the installation of the new jail cells.

He hopes to have a representative of the firm at the board's May 21 meeting to provide an update on the upcoming project.

Meanwhile, the supervisors are no longer considering a plan to close a portion of a street near West Point.

Merschman Seeds asked the county to vacate several hundred feet of Avenue C.

President Joe Merschman says the company is concerned about traffic accidents, given the number of trucks and forklifts using the road on a daily basis.

Residents, though, used a public hearing during this week's meeting to express their concerns about how the closure would limit accessibility in that part of town.

That input prompted Merschman to withdraw the request before the supervisors could act.

“At the end of the day, it would be an inconvenience to them if we closed it," says Merschman.  "It is somewhat of an inconvenience to us if we don’t close it so it’s better to compromise as we want to get along and be part of the community and be good corporate citizens.”

The residents who spoke said they were pleased with Merschman’s decision.

Merschman says his company will look for other ways to address safety concerns.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.