GREENCASTLE -- Although the Putnam County Commissioners and Council met last week to discuss the possibility of building a new courthouse annex, the matter remains in the fact-finding and discussion phase at this point.
The concept of a new annex or at least upgrading the current annex, in the old Jones School at 209 W. Liberty St., Greencastle, is not a new one. As the building continues to age, it has had its share of problems, including a heating problem last winter.
Both the council and commissioners have addressed the issue before. Last week's meeting was simply a chance for county officials and the public to see what options are available.
"At the moment, it's still a work in progress," council president Darrel Thomas said. "The purpose of the meeting was not specifically to make any decisions, it was more a fact-finding opportunity for, specifically the council and the community.
"At this point in time, we are continuing to do that. There will be some more information presented to the council at our next meeting on July 20."
The issue on the minds of most of the councilors and commissioners is one of timing. While a new annex would take care of some problems the county is currently facing, as well as future issues, the bigger problem right now is funding.
As counties and localities struggle to get funding for such seemingly simple issues as repairing roads, the concept of a new multi-million dollar building project is a tough one to swallow.
"I think we're in a time that all levels of government need to be forced -- I'm talking about federal, state and local -- to be fiscally responsible," Commissioner Jim Baird said. "A new annex building is a viable solution; I just can't support a project that's unfunded."
The difficult economic times have had a major impact on the state, and while things seem to be getting better, things remain extremely uncertain for taking on major new expenses.
Thomas expressed similar reservations.
"Really at this point in time, we're trying to look ahead to address some of the issues that we identify now for the future. The timing's not real good right now," he said.
While Thomas and Baird are just two of the 10 voices on the two governing bodies, it seems most of their peers share similar concerns. On one hand, a new building sounds great. On the other, how will it be funded?
"I think everyone is sharing these concerns and proceeding with extreme caution," Baird said.
With the funding concerns, though, Thomas said a new annex is just one solution. The county has other possible solutions for housing the services it provides.
"One end to the means would be something new -- a new courthouse annex or something to that effect. But that is just one of the ideas," Thomas said. At this point in time, there are all sorts of different kinds of options.
"Our desire -- the commissioners' and the council's desire -- at this point in time is to identify specifically what the options are that we like, and what kind of price tags go with those options," he added.
As the council and commissioners continue to gather information, the ultimate goal is to move toward some sort of decision.
"The decision will come at some later time," Thomas said. "Specifically from the council point of view, is whether we would authorize a checkbook for one of those projects."
The discussion will continue at upcoming commissioner and council meetings. The Putnam County Commissioners meet on the first and third Monday of each month, while the Putnam County Council meets the third Tuesday of each month.