Hinds County has six communication tower sites scattered throughout the county. Three are owned by the county, and three are leased from other companies. Airwave, LLC is under contract to perform monitoring and maintenance on the sites.
The contract pays out $122,045 a year. But Larry Fisher, former Hinds EOC Director, says the site work amounts to little more than cutting grass and replacing fixtures. "This cost of $122,000 a year is ridiculous," he says.
Fisher says the work barely cost anything before the contract was signed in 2008. "Immediately around the sites, the grass was done by the prisoners. If any one of us walked into a building, we were able to check and see if the lights were working, if these things were done, fuel levels in the tank and so forth," he says.
Fisher tells us he noticed the work wasn't getting done under Airwave, and he took pictures of it. But his efforts were not embraced. "I was called in by Robert Graham, told we would turn our keys in. Airwave sent a representative, Nathan Hargrove. (He) came by, picked up all our keys to the tower sites," Fisher says.
Many of the duties outlined in the contract seem relatively simple, like checking fuel levels and light bulbs, changing filters, replacing batteries, and checking weather proofing and smoke detectors.
"How do you check your smoke detector at home? You push a button. If it buzzes it's working. If not, you replace a 9-volt battery," Fisher says.
And that weather proofing?
"If it's a torn piece, you say we need a new piece of weather stripping. But Airwave is not gonna put the weather stripping on, they're gonna call in a contractor to put on that weather stripping," he tells us.
In fact, Fisher says, repairs for the air conditioning, the tower, or the generator would require outside specialists, at a cost not covered in the $122,000 contract. 'I could bid it and probably save the county $110,000 a year... this is utter stupidity," he says.
George Smith, President of the Hinds County Board of Supervisors, says the county took on the contract because the work wasn't getting done with employees or inmates. "Yes, it is excessive," Smith says, "However, you have to have those services rendered. We went to several locations. We had to cut the locks off because no services had been rendered."
Smith says the county is currently reviewing all contracts to see where they can save cash.
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