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Magistrates give nod to $775K loan for courthouse renovation

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By Joshua Shepherd

After deliberation about the fiscal court’s commitment to keep tight rein on the county budget for the next decade, the court took the next step in the courthouse renovation project by approving a bid from Civic Financing for a 10-year loan for $775,000 at a fixed interest rate of 1.92 percent.

“I was going to recommend a 15-year or 20-year loan until I got this bid with this interest rate,” said Harrison County Judge-Executive Alex Barnett.

Despite the favorable interest rate, though, magistrates were not quick to approve the judge’s recommendation. Most expressed concerns about the court’s commitment to maintain strict controls on spending in order to retire the debt within the time frame and not let other costs get out of control.

The estimated annual payments to cover the loan in 10 years was estimated at around $85,000 a year, Barnett said.

“Before I approve this, I think we need to have a clear game plan about the places in our budget where we’re going to make cuts,” Magistrate Jeff Brunker said.

Magistrate Brad Marshall was equally reluctant to move forward. As he stated in the previous court meeting, he preferred that the fiscal court take this aggressive approach to retire debt quickly. But he wanted to be assured that the entire fiscal court was on the same page when it comes to approving annual budgets for the next decade.

“We know that we’re going to have make cuts in places. Some of us may have to make political decisions based on our districts, but that doesn’t mean we all do,” Marshall said.

Magistrate Bradley Copes was even more conservative in his thoughts. He said he would be in favor of financing the project at around half a million, but the debt, in his opinion, was still too deep.

“The courthouse’s structure is sound. The interior has deteriorated, but the building is not going to be falling anytime soon,” Copes said.

Marshall and Brunker cited the projects that the court was already taking on, such as the need for new automobiles in the Sheriff’s department, a new bucket truck, the new salt building, and the court’s commitment to the Welding Academy project.

“You never know what kind of things are going to hit the budget over the next ten years,” Marshall said.

Magistrate Missy Lutz, however, shared Judge Barnett’s optimism that Harrison County could easily meet the debt obligation at the courthouse and still maintain county services at a solid level of quality.

Furthermore, Barnett said the public feedback he has received from his talks on radio and presentations to the Lions and Rotary Clubs have all been supportive of this project.

“The courthouse is the centerpiece of our county and people want to see it maintained,” Barnett said.

In a roll call vote, the magistrates approved the financing bid by a 6-1 vote with Copes being the sole dissenting vote. Magistrate Frank Henson was absent due to a time conflict and, therefore, did not vote.

 

Sheriff’s cars need replacing

Hampton said most of his department’s vehicles are in serious need of replacement.

Almost all of the vehicles date back to 2007 and have over 120,000 miles on their odometers. Transmission problems range from bearable to dangerous. 

“Deputy Tuan Kreer’s vehicle doesn’t have reverse anymore,” Hampton said. “It will take about $3,500 to repair it.”

To deal with the immediate needs of the department, Hampton is giving Kreer his vehicle, which has only 28,000 miles on it.

The department has two other cars with about 85,000 miles on them that need repairs, but can be safely used by deputies.

The  costs of used law enforcement vehicles are about the same as new, Hampton said, so there is no cost savings in buying used.

Barnett said there was only money in this year’s budget for one new vehicle. Perhaps some money can be available for next year, but he asked if the department can keep it together until the next fiscal year. Hampton said the department could handle it.

The fiscal court approved the purchase of a new Ford Explorer for the Sheriff’s Department from Crossroads Ford.

In other business, the court:

• Approved bids from Ron’s Concrete to replace bridges on Bobtown Road for $62,877 and Cummins Lane for $59,828. Barnett said he is applying for discretionary funds to cover the costs, but if that doesn’t work, he would use 80-20 money.

• Douglas Hall, a private citizen living near the Cynthiana bypass construction, expressed his concerns about drivers failing to heed stop signs at the intersections of the by-pass with White Oak Pike and Connersville Road. These roads never have had stops on them before and Hall has observed drivers running by the signs without slowing down.

This situation is especially dangerous during the school year when buses are picking up children. 

Magistrates agreed with Hall that the intersections are becoming dangerous and that the intersections may need more law enforcement when the by-pass opens. They may even require the installation of traffic lights.

• Approved paving projects for Silas and Newtown Roads if Barnett can get approval from Frankfort for money to pay for the work.

• In his report from the roads committee, Marshall said that the bucket truck that has been in need of repair is so old that parts for it are no longer being manufactured. The need for a bucket truck is enough to warrant the fiscal court buying a new one. 

 • In her report on Parks and Recreation, Lutz said the committee agreed to meet the fourth Monday of every month at 5 p.m. in the Harrison County Sheriff’s office.