County Engineer Rudy Warnock has been paid nearly $9.5 million since 2005, an analysis of engineering fees shows.

Overall, fees paid to the county engineer have increased more than 615 percent since Warnock was appointed four years ago.

Some members of the Board of Supervisors insist the fees are justified and are directly related to the scope of new road and bridge projects and based on a percentage of project costs.

But depending on the number of change orders, re-design requests or various fee assessments, payment for a particular project can far exceed percentages stipulated in a contract, others say.

Repeated calls to Warnock's office and his cellular telephone have gone unreturned for weeks, although while vacationing out of state last week he said through an attorney he wanted to comment on this story.

Supervisors have also questioned Warnock's practice of subcontracting projects.

Warnock & Associates billed the county $1.37 million or nearly 10 percent of the cost on the three phases of Calhoun Station Parkway where more than $300,000 in environmental studies were subcontracted.

Madison County has paid the following to Warnock & Associates over the last five fiscal years, records show:

• 2005: $508,780

• 2006: $1,394,026

• 2007: $2,956,121

• 2008: $3,132,426

• 2009: $1,469,454 (as of May 31)

Warnock replaced Mike McKenzie of Williford, Gearhart and Knight in January of 2005.

County records show that McKenzie was paid a total of $221,567 during the 2004 fiscal year when he was county engineer.

By comparison, other counties of comparable size or growth such as Desoto, Rankin and Lee have paid county engineers less.

In 2008, Rankin paid $996,913; Desoto, $648,308 and Lee, $359,625.

In 2007, Rankin paid $1,275,947; Desoto, $939,985 and Lee, $620,078

Officials in those counties said figures varied from year to year, but rarely exceeded $1 million unless a large bond issue was issued for road work.

Madison County District 4 Supervisor Karl Banks pointed to the scope of work being done here over the last four years as a reason for the increase in engineering fees.

"There have been a ton of projects compared to what we had with Williford (Gearhart and Knight)," Banks said.

In 2006, following a controversial 3-2 vote, supervisors agreed to undertake a $100 million transportation plan.

Warnock was designated as the lead engineer on the $100 million project.

With projects like the Reunion interchange, Calhoun Station Parkway, Parkplace Boulevard and several other major road and bridge projects, Banks said it was obvious engineering fees would increase.

Banks noted that all those fees are based on set percentages and do not reflect favoritism towards Warnock.

"Our contracts are a basic contract that we use for all engineers," Banks said. "They're not set by Rudy (Warnock). They (engineers) all get the same percentage. If they do the work they will get the money."

Several engineers, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that was not always the case, however.

They said depending on the number of change orders, re-design request or various fee assessments, payment for a particular project could far exceed percentages stipulated in a contract.

For example, in 2005 and 2006 during Phase I of the Calhoun Station Parkway project, Warnock charged the county $0.35 a mile for vehicle mileage. He also levied a $100 a day "vehicle usage charge" sometimes billing the county for as many as 25 days in a given month.

Over a nine month period he billed $19,400 in "vehicle usage charges" for Phase I of Calhoun Station Parkway. The county also paid $2,700 in mileage reimbursements over this period.

Warnock's firm also charged $150,000 for environmental engineering fees for Calhoun Station Parkway Phase II and $176,800 for Calhoun Station Parkway Phase III.

Both of the environmental engineering reports were subcontracted to another firm.

The terms of those subcontracts are not public record.

Calhoun Station Parkway is a four-laned divided roadway west of Interstate 55 stretching from Gluckstadt Road north to Mississippi 22 near Canton. Its projected cost is around $14 million.

So far, Warnock & Associates billed the county $1.37 million for this project.

District 3 Supervisor D.I. Smith agreed with Banks that with so much spending on roads and bridges you have to expect a lot of engineering fees, but questioned whether preliminary estimates were anywhere close to final payments.

"It would be nice to see what the original estimates for engineering was, then see how close we're coming as the project is finished," Smith said. "It should be relatively easy to have a fact sheet on each project.

"So many times we're called on to make decisions when we don't have the full information in front of us," he added.

Smith also question paying for engineering fees on projects like the Reunion Interchange when funding for the construction phase has yet to be acquired.

Banks did, however, express concern about Warnock's subcontracting practices.

"It's something we talked about a few months ago actually," Banks said recently. "I for one definitely would want that practice of sub-contracting to cease.

"If Rudy is having to go out and hire an engineering firm with different expertise that deal needs to be coming directly to us," he continued.

"That way there is no question what they charge is what they are paid. We're not paying a commission."

Warnock had served in the position previously in 2002 and 2003 and served as State Aid Engineer during McKenzie's one-year term.