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Legal Services Are Modified

CUMBERLAND – Supervisors in Cumberland approved a modification to its legal services contract on Tuesday evening. The modification item was added to the night's agenda after returning from closed session and was a result of the budget line item for legal services being decreased earlier this year.

The modification to the contract with Estes & Associates passed on a three to two vote.

Chairman Van Petty, District Three, and Supervisors Elbert Womack, District Five, and Bill Osl, District One, voted in favor of the modification. Supervisors Tim Kennell, District Two, and Bobby Oertel, District Five, voted in opposition.

According to Cumberland's County Administrator, Judy Ownby, on Wednesday morning, several options were presented for review and it was recommended that “option two” be considered for approval.

This option is the County's plan for legal services moving forward.

The County's fiscal year budget was adopted on a divided vote in April due to a proposal being made to reduce the legal services line item in the budget when it came time for approval.

The original amount identified in the budget was $293,312 but Supervisor Kennell made a motion to reduce the legal services line item by $100,000.

By the way the motion was worded when the budget was adopted, the new legal services total amounted to $193,312, according to information provided earlier by Jill Matthews, assistant county administrator of finance and human resources.

But, according to Ms. Ownby on Wednesday, the new fixed fee comes in just under the projected $193,000 at approximately $189,250.

Although the “option two” contract is not completely finalized, Ms. Ownby said, the services that will be provided include a certain number of Board of Supervisors meetings and other County meetings, such as those of the Planning Commission and the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) and assisting with staff needs.

These services are at the flat fee listed and are not to exceed that amount.

“What he gave us was a proposal and out of the proposal, he had several options listed and the option selected was option two, which it's a revised fixed fee to cover a certain number of meetings of the Board, the Planning Commission, and the IDA and then there is an hourly component also for any additional work that the Board asks him to do,” explained Ms. Ownby to The Herald.

After that, the County Attorney will assist Cumberland with any additional projects and other matters, when asked or directed, according to a fee schedule at a rate of $285 per hour.

“It would involve an hourly amount and it would be above the fixed fee,” noted Ms. Ownby about when County Attorney Howard Estes would be contacted to do work outside of the fixed fee schedule.

“It's just an effort to modify the contract to fit within the budgeted amount for the upcoming year,” said Ms. Ownby about the reduced amount that was appropriated. “…The County Attorney will assist with any and all projects that the Board asks him to and we're just trying to manage the cost and manage the budget and it's not a question of service just a concern of the budget.”