MT. VERNON — County Board members agree there are maintenance problems at the courthouse. How to pay for renovations to the aging structure remains a controversial issue.
Board member Jeremy Hall voted in opposition to a resolution approved by the Board on Monday that authorized the county to place a referendum on the March 2014 primary ballot asking voters to approve a one-quarter of 1 percent Public Safety Sales Tax. Hall and Joey McDermott opposed the resolution which was approved on a 10-2 vote. The resolution does not specifically ask for a dollar amount from taxpayers.
"I still maintain we didn't have to arrive at this point," Hall said on Monday. "I think there are other options to consider."
When asked by Chairman Robert White what those options are, Hall replied, "A number of them. We chose M360 and that's the route we were going to go. I don't think the courthouse needs $7.62 million right now."
"Right now, what you have before you is a revenue vehicle, whether you just want to fix the roof or a couple of windows, or if you want to do the full $7.62 million or some variation thereof. That's what's in front of you," said White.
"I don't think anyone disagrees there are some major problems at this courthouse. We may all come to a different conclusion … M360's professional opinion is these items need to be done, and and when we do them, it's more cost effective to do them at one time."
White said the questions County Board members are faced with are: Are there problems? And secondly, do we have the money to fix any of these items? The first question is not debatable; the second is questionable.
White said there is a warranty on materials for the roof, and the Board has already allotted $3,800 to fix that problem. In the meantime, Judge Jo Beth Weber had some flooring installed which led to a another problem — leaks through the limestone veneer.
"What we're voting for is a Public Safety Sales Tax to address problems at the courthouse. Whether it's doing it with a $7.62 million bond, whether it's paying $3 million of the costs up front and then financing the rest, whether we look at alternative financing, I don't know," White continued. "We can't even begin to tackle the discussion or that issue absent a revenue stream."
White added, "At the end of the day, if we don't address it now at some point in time it will have to be addressed, not by our or a future board's choosing. Where do they get the money from? The last opportunity is your Public Safety Tax money."
White reported at the meeting the Board in 2009 extended the payment on the newest jail bonds for an additional 10 years. The current sales tax is set to expire in 2024 and the last bond payment to be made in 2034.
"Plumbing, electrical, leaks, you've got to start somewhere," said Vice Chairman Don Rector. "I'm not going to run again but someone is going to be in my place. If we don't take care of it, it won't get done. It's just a start. We've heard people say 'let's put to the voters.' I say let's put it to the voters; if they want it, fine. If they don't, we'll do something else."