Supervisors Take Accusatory Stand Towards Sheriff

Mahaska County Supervisor Mark Doland made some strong accusations towards Mahaska County Sheriff Russ Van Renterghem during the supervisor meeting on Monday.

Mahaska County Supervisor Mark Doland made some strong accusations towards Mahaska County Sheriff Russ Van Renterghem during the supervisor meeting on Monday.

Oskaloosa, Iowa – The dispute about radio communications ratcheted up another notch on Monday during the Mahaska County Supervisor meeting.

The Mahaska County Emergency Management is its own municipality under Iowa Code and came to the Mahaska County Board of Supervisors to ask permission to utilize some of the county bonding capacity to save the taxpayers money in interest rates.

Mahaska County Supervisor Mark Doland and Mark Groenendyk accused Mahaska County Sheriff Russ Van Renterghem of not holding an open and fair bidding process for a new radio system to be used by emergency personnel.

Doland said that during a previous conversation about the radio system Van Renterghem said he preferred the SARA system.

At the time, Van Renterghem said he preferred the SARA system based on the information he had at that time of the process. Van Renterghem says he hasn’t made a determination what system will be best for the county until more information is available. “It doesn’t mean I’m opposed to that state system. I’m not.”

The Emergency Management Commission is waiting for the information that will be included in a request for proposal or (RFP). An RFP is a document that an agency uses during the procurement process for valuable assets. Potential suppliers submit their business proposals and are legally bound to fulfill the RFP as provided.

This process protects an agency like Emergency Management, so that a vendor doesn’t underbid a project and then add on costs later.

Van Renterghem said that he’s been to two meetings, one for each system. “I’m not going to show favoritism,” added Van Renterghem about further meetings with outside agencies regarding radio systems.

“So what’s the point of going through the RFP process if the predetermined outcome is already you’re going to go with the SARA systems. Why even pay the money to go through the RFP,” said Doland.

Conversation continues at 51 minutes in.

The other competing radio system is run by the State of Iowa and is designed by Motorola. The SARA system is utilizing Racom technology.

“We haven’t decided that,” responded Van Renterghem.

“Okay, well it seems like you have,” said Doland.

“We have not,” said Van Renterghem.

Doland said his comment is based upon the statement from Van Renterghem that board members have already made up their mind.

“I’m not one of them Mark,” said Van Renterghem.

“But you said that you prefer the SARA system. You’re the chair,” stated Doland.

“I said,” Van Renterghem began to say.

“You said that right here,” interrupted Doland.

“In May we had that discussion up here. I said, ‘If I have to decide at this point, I would go with the SARA system.’ I’m sitting here telling you I have not made up my mind. Back in May, if I had to pick that day, absolutely I would have gone with the SARA system,” said Van Renterghem.

“But the message that sends. Do you understand that?” Doland questioned Van Renterghem. “Because you are preferring one over the other.”

“If you are stating publically you prefer one over the other, I think that you as the chair can sway votes on that commission,” said Doland. “It doesn’t seem like the transparency is there to me.”

“What guarantees do we have for you that this is going to be an open process? A competitive process?” Asked Doland of Van Renterghem. “You can tailor an RFP for one individual if that is the way that you want it. I don’t want that.”

“What assurances do we have as a board before we say… yeah, we’re going to let you bond for it,” asked Doland.

Elert is the company that is handling the RFP for the Mahaska County Emergency Management Commission, which is comprised of all the mayors in Mahaska County or their designees. Van Renterghem said there are 13 voting members that make up the commission.

“I’m certainly not going to be able to make the decision as the chairman,” said Van Renterghem. “Mark [Groenendyk] can’t make that as the vice-chairman.”

Groenendyk then accused Mahaska County Emergency Management “of going out and saying all these things that we’ve dealt with as it’s proven truth.”

Groenendyk, who is the vice-chairman of the Emergency Management Commission and a Mahaska County Supervisor, said that he went to Dallas County for answers. “I’ve got all these things fact checked and studied, and none of them are truth. And you say them as if they are. And they’re not.”

“That needs to be brought up to the director Mark,” said Van Renterghem.

“I have notified him, and let him know,” said Groenendyk.

“I’m okay with bonding it. I want it to be a competitive playing field,” said Doland. “I want it to be fair to everybody involved. I don’t want it to be geared towards just one entity you prefer.”

Doland said that if there are concerns about why one provider can’t do it over the other, “I need to hear that.”

Doland asked Van Renterghem that if the system is so unsafe, why not fast track the process.

“We want to make the good decision,” said Van Renterghem. “We need the RFP. We need Elert’s advice before a decision can be made.”

“Another thing that I may have some concern over. How many of the RFP’s that Elert has actually written have been awarded to Racom and how many to Motorola,” asked Doland of Van Renterghem.

“I don’t have any idea,” said Van Renterghem.

Mahaska County Emergency Manager Jamey Robinson stated that question was posed to Elert, and they received assurances there was no favoritism. “They [Elert] don’t have a say. They’re not users.”

Robinson said that the supervisors were welcomed to look at the RFP before it’s sent out. “Mr. Groenendyk will have access because he’s part of the committee that decides some of the factors that go with it.”

“Do you have those numbers though. Do you know how many RPF’s in the State of Iowa that Elert has written that have gone to Racom as opposed to the Motorola system, asked Doland of Robinson?

“I do not,” said Robinson.

“I would say most of them,” said Groenendyk.

“My concern is, I hope everything is evaluated and double checked. The people deserve to have an open and honest [inaudible],” said Groenendyk.

“At the proper time, I guess they will have to come back to us and prove that they did,” added Groenendyk. “That’s what it comes down to.”

Doland said there was consensus to bond for the project, “We have questions as to the integrity of the process and we want to make sure that’s followed.”

“That’s why you have a member on the commission,” added Van Renterghem.

Groenendyk is the supervisor representing that elected body on the emergency management commission.

At an earlier meeting, Groenendyk invited the State of Iowa, which uses the Motorola system, to a board of supervisors meeting. Racom, who could potentially be bidding against Motorola, has not been at a meeting to date.

Groenendyk has been advocating for the State of Iowa to come down and inspect the current radio system. Van Renterghem and the Pella Police Chief Robert Bokinski expressed concerns about inviting an outside contractor to check the radio system and the liabilities that could cause.

After the meeting, Oskaloosa News asked Doland what would happen if Racom was to be the winner during the bidding process. “I’m fully expecting that,” said Doland.

Doland added he would still bond for the new radio system. “They have assured me they are going to go through the process with full transparency. It just doesn’t appear that’s what’s happening. I fully anticipate it will be Racom.”

You can read the most recent Emergency Management Commission update HERE.



Posted by on Aug 9 2017. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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