Fayette OKs seeking new temporary women's jail site

| Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, 11:15 p.m.

Fayette County commissioners on Tuesday voted unanimously to advertise for a new location for a temporary women's jail.

The ads will be placed when specifications for the proposed temporary annex have been devised and all three commissioners review and approve them, according to the resolution presented by Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink.

The decision was made a week after the board indicated a building at 32 Iowa St. no longer appears feasible for the annex. The commissioners had concerns over flooding at the one-story structure and an estimated $350,000 in renovations needed at the site.

The temporary women's annex has been proposed to ease crowding at the county's existing jail until a proposed $32 million facility is built. In addition to seeking another site, commissioners will consider whether any county-owned buildings or properties are available for the temporary annex.

Commissioners Al Ambrosini and Vincent Zapotosky voted to hire SGA Financial Advisory Services Inc., also known as Susquehanna Group of Harrisburg, to guide the county as it seeks funding for the new jail, the annex and an addition to the Children and Youth Services building.

The group's base fee is not to exceed $25,000, but that does not include expenses and additional fees as part of any financing options approved by the county, according to its proposal.

Zimmerlink opposed the appointment because just last month, at SGA's recommendation, Ambrosini and Zapotosky voted to advertise for bank proposals for a $10 million tax-exempt loan for the same projects. The rest of the money was to be borrowed in increments over two years.

Zimmerlink said the county is capable of reviewing any financing options on its own to determine which would work best and be the most cost effective.

Ambrosini said SGA's expertise is needed because financing options can be complicated and contain hidden costs.

“That's why it's important for us to acquire services from an expert,” Ambrosini said, noting the firm's $25,000 fee could ultimately save millions of dollars.

In an unrelated matter, Ambrosini and Zapotosky voted to enter into a contract, pending review by county solicitors, with Tom Murphy and IBN Inc. of Lower Burrell that calls for IBN to assist with implementation of the fee-based United Parcel Identification system for property records.

Murphy, who is the former recorder of deeds in Westmoreland County, last week told commissioners the UPI indexing system will assign a single number to all transactions pertaining to real estate, making it easier to search them for liens and other information.

Zimmerlink voted against the motion, noting that Murphy's proposal calls for the county to pay him $1 or 10 percent, whichever is higher, for each UPI number for the next five years. The proposal calls for the contract to be automatically renewed annually at the end of the five years, with no option to cancel, she said.

Zimmerlink said Murphy should have provided an estimate of his revenues based on past transactions involving real estate records. She said his fees could prove costly and wanted instead to seek proposals from other companies or to do the work in house.

“There is no way of determining, at this point, how much money will be given to Tom Murphy under this agreement,” Zimmerlink said.

Solicitor Ken Burkley advised against entering into the agreement with the automatic renewal option in place.

Murphy identifies himself in the proposed contract as president of IBN Inc., but the Pennsylvania Department of State's Corporations Bureau has no record of an IBN Inc., said Ron Ruman, a department spokesman.

Murphy did not attend Tuesday's meeting. Contacted by phone after the meeting, he said the corporation is registered with the state and that he would be amenable to Fayette's changes to the contract.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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