The Sarpy County Board voted Oct. 15 to permit two of the county's top officials to approve higher payments for contracted work without securing permission from board members.
Previous policy saw contractor requests for additional payments, known as “change orders,” come before the County Board even for minor amounts, sometimes hundreds of dollars on contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The board voted 4-1 to allow Sarpy County Administrator Mark Wayne or Sarpy County Engineer Dennis Wilson to approve additional payments of up to $10,000 on contracts worth under $500,000, and up to $20,000 on contracts over $500,000.
Increases over those figures will still require board approval.
Change orders are typically brought before the board if contractors are asked to perform additional work or if unanticipated difficulties arise.
Commissioner Don Kelly, who cast the lone vote against the looser procedures, has warned on several occasions that change orders are susceptible to abuse and they are unjust to companies that submit higher bids but then see the low bidder charge as much or more through the use of change orders.
He suggested that non-board-approved change order awards be limited to $5,000 on contracts under $500,000 and $10,000 on contracts over $500,000.
“I previously suggested that 2 percent would be about right, but when I saw the figures I wasn't comfortable that we were going to allow $20,000 change orders without discussion,” he said.
Kelly's proposal was defeated 3-2, with Commissioners Brenda Carlisle, Jim Thompson and Tom Richards preferring the higher increases.
The higher figures were approved on a 4-1 vote, with Kelly opposed.