Bellwether LLC hired to serve as "consultative administrator" for Mercer County

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

The Mercer County Board voted Tuesday (Oct. 13)  to hire Bellwether LLC as its "consultative administrator," extending the contract with the company.

The firm was hired by the board this past spring to conduct an operations audit. Bellwether has supplied the county with help in budget preparation and also an analysis of jail operations.

In July, the board voted to approve a package of salary and benefits of nearly $95,000 for a full-time administrator. One reason cited by Finance Committee Chairman Ted Pappas as to why he decided to recommend Bellwether is the cost will be less; $78,000 annually for fees and expenses _ $6,000 a month, with $500 monthly for expenses.

Board member Jeff McWhorter agreed that Bellwether has helped the county but asked "do we need to keep them on full time? We should have learned all the tricks by now."

Mark Bieri mentioned one of four points Pappas brought up in favor of Bellwether as opposed to hiring a new staff member.

"I feel really comfortable talking to them," Bieri said.

Pappas said Bellwether's familiarity with Mercer County, as well as the comfort level department heads and elected officials fee in working with the consultants, were points in the company's favor.

Vice Chairman Joe Vann pointed out another reason for extending Bellwether's contract through the end of 2016.

"The Personnel Committee, we were not able to find a suitable candidate," Vann said.

"It's just a lot of money we're putting out," McWhorter said.

Bieri said the company is worth it.

"Does anyone in the room think we'd have this budget by now without them?" Bieri asked. "They're paying for themselves."

Pappas noted there is a "30-day out clause" for both sides, rather than having to enter into a multi-year contract with an individual.

"Anyone who wouldn't support keeping them at least another year, I don't know why they wouldn't," Pappas told reporters.

Bellwether's contract was originally extended in June.

"It was kind of a step-by-step process," Pappas said, adding he decided month ago to recommend keeping the consultants on.

"There was a candidate," he said of consideration of hiring an administrator, "but I think this option was very much better than the candidate option."

Despite the debate, there was unanimous approval to extend Bellwether's contract.