By RICK HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON — Two more town hall meetings — including one this evening at the courthouse — have been scheduled by the Courthouse Renovations Committee.
Tonight's meeting, beginning at 7 p.m., will be held in Court Room A. The final town hall meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday in the cafeteria at Rome Grade School in Dix.
Tonight's meeting replaces the meeting that was scheduled this past Thursday at the Rolland W. Lewis Community Building, which was cancelled due to a scheduling conflict.
The Courthouse Renovations Committee — composed of Chairman Randy Edwards, James Malone and Tommy Hayes — was appointed by Chairman Robert White to educate the public on maintenance issues associated with the courthouse and to answer questions from the public. The county is considering a countywide referendum in the March primary, asking voters to help fund renovations for the historic structure.
Edwards does not deny attendance has been sparse at best during the previous four town hall meetings conducted at various locations around the county, although he is hoping for good turnouts for the final two meetings.
"I wish we could get a bigger turnout and more people interested," Edwards said Monday. "We're getting small turnouts at there meetings, and there seems to be a misconception from some people who think we're actually doing work on the courthouse now."
Edwards said the reaction from voters on potential courthouse renovations has been mixed.
"It's kind of mixed emotion," the chairman said. "There's people that don't want to do anything. There's some that want to do something, but they don't want to pay higher taxes. The problem with the jail and the school is hanging over our heads too. We're still dealing with the jail issue and the loss of ICE prisoners. People are pretty upset about that.
If it goes to referendum people will decide. It's up to the people."
Jim Engeman of M360, the company the county hired to inspect the courthouse and make recommendations, has presented an overview of the proposed project at the town hall meetings.
Edwards said whatever recommendation the committee forwards to the full board for consideration will be based on the feedback from the public meetings.
"I want to do whatever the people want to do, but that doesn't change the fact we need to do something with the courthouse," Edwards offered.
None of the previous four meetings have been recorded, although White suggested the committee put the meetings on the Internet or the county's web site. Administrative Assistant Suzy Tate has been at all the meetings, taking notes, according to Edwards.
White also suggested the committee allow the public to take tours of the courthouse to view firsthand some of the repairs that need immediate attention. Edwards said due to "concerns from officeholders," the tours will probably not be given.
The committee was given a date of Dec. 1 to make recommendations to the full board.