DIX — In the final town hall meeting conducted by the Courthouse Renovations Committee, less than 20 Jefferson County residents turned out to hear why renovations of up to $7.6 million are needed.
Jim Engeman, spokesman for M360, the company hired by the county to work up the renovations proposal, presented information to the handful of voters who attended the meeting at Rome Grade School.
Engeman provided various payment options for the renovations, including Option I funding of $4.5 to $5 million which would include roof repair, window replacement, limestone skin update, HVAC upgrade, electrical distribution upgrade, any abatements needed, and demolition of the old jail. Phase II of the project would include an elevator update, restroom rehabilitation, plumbing supply, a communications backbone, security, lighting fixture upgrades, fire wall for east stairwell and space programming changes.
In August, Engeman said his company proposed a $2.8 million option for roof repair, window replacement, limestone skin repair/seal, HVAC upgrade, electrical distribution upgrade, abatement and old jail demolition.
He also presented on Aug. 29 a cost breakdown by discipline with the range of cost to reflect a phasing approach, or “pay as you go.” Those estimates included $2.2 to $2.6 million for general work, $2.5 to $3 million for electrical, $1.8 to $2.2 million for the HVAC system and $1.2 to $1.4 million for plumbing, resulting in a total estimate of $7.7 to $9.2 million.
The county is considering placing a referendum on the March 2014 ballot, asking voters to help pay for the courthouse renovations. Although several options have been proposed, county officials are leaning toward a 1/4 cent percent sales tax increase. It’s been noted in previous town hall meetings that 60 percent of the revenues generated by the tax comes from residents outside of Jefferson County.
If the referendum passes, the board could execute a contract with M360 by April 2014, bids would be received in June and construction could begin the same month, with an April 2015 completion date.
Bob Shaw asked when the county will formalize the wording of the referendum. With the committee having a Dec. 1 deadline to make a recommendation to the full board, it would seem likely the earliest that could occur is at the Dec.16 County Board meeting. The Board will meet one week earlier than usual in December due to the Christmas holiday. Shaw said voters need to know when the question will be formalized in case they want to provide input during the “public input” portion of the meeting.
Terry Knowles, another public member, said, “The only way this will pass is if I know in detail how much it will cost me in taxes and for how long.”
Most of the remaining questions asked during the meeting were general in nature, although Denny Clark questioned how M360 was chosen as the “general contractor” of the project.
Engeman explained there is a state statute that gives guidance to public entities for projects similar to the one in Jefferson County.
“We are a whole subsidiary of Murphy Company and we just focus on energy service. The reason we’re in Jefferson County is Murphy Co. worked a joint venture with Rend Lake Mechanical at the tire plant (Continental Tire) and they had a very successful venture. I believe Rend Lake was also doing a lot of mechanical work at the courthouse. They knew the conditions they were facing. They were doing repairs, but it wasn’t a complete resolution; it was more of a Band-Aid approach,” he said, adding, “They came to the board and said ‘We know a good company that can take a look at the facility … that’s how we were introduced to the county.”
Engeman and Committee Chairman Randy Edwards reiterated that there will be no cost overruns on the project, therefore, no change orders. If the project comes in under bid, the overall price of the project will also be lower, it was reported.