Commissioners look at construction and capital improvements

Friday, August 9, 2013

More with less: Those three words ring terribly in the ears of government officials everywhere.

Doing more with less has been the reality of local governments for a number of years now, and Monday's meeting of the Putnam County Commissioners was more of the same.

Commissioners Don Walton and David Berry received information on a pair of costly projects, as well as news that a program that has been bringing money into the county's coffers may need to be put on hold.

One unexpected cost is go toward the repaving and drainage project the county is helping fund in Edgelea subdivision north of Greencastle.

While resurfacing work is progressing well, contractors installing the storm sewer recently discovered solid rock near the intersection of Edgelea Drive and Hilltop Lane.

Unable to excavate the rock with normal equipment, specialized equipment will need to be brought in for the work, at a cost of $120 per cubic yard removed.

While the rock may only go on for a few feet and not be too costly for the county, the worst-case scenario would be an additional cost of $25,000 for the work.

While Edgelea homeowners are footing the bill for 75 percent of the more than $1.5 million price tag on the project, county officials have expressed some consternation at a few of the added costs that have come in over the course of the project.

When additionally money was requested in April from the rainy day fund, the Putnam County Council denied the request, instead requiring the money be taken from the County Economic Development Income Tax fund.

Additionally, the final cost of the project came in slightly higher than initial estimates, raising the county price tag by about $50,000 and raising the 20-year annual assessment fee for Edgelea residents from $592 to approximately $625.

Commissioners approved the request, which will go before the council for final approval on Tuesday, Aug. 27.

In news of an already expected expediture, head courthouse custodian Brian Smith presented details of the cost to update the aging courthouse HVAC system.

Smith initially presented the information at the July 1 meeting and returned in August with more specific numbers. The current estimate came in under Smith original $300,000 ballpark figure at a cost of $237,000.

Specifically, costs for the project would include boilers and installation supplies ($17,500); 77 four-pipe fan coil units ($80,000); 100-ton chiller ($65,000); circulation pump for coolant ($2,000); pipe, fittings, couplers, valves, hanger, insulation and other supplies ($32,000); needed specialty tools and consumable supplies ($6,000); subcontracted employee to help current workers ($37,000); and additional subcontractors as needed ($25,000).

From this total cost of $264,500, Smith then subtracted the $17,500 cost of boilers, which have already been purchased; and $10,000 for the value of used equipment and scrap.

Remaining costs would come in the form of wages for current employees working on the project as well as inflation of prices for parts not purchased in the next 90 days.

Still, the budget falls well within the current balance of the cumulative courthouse fund, which has an approximately $350,000 balance, not including what it will accumulate from taxes over the next three years.

Smith added that money may be available from Duke Energy since the county will be improving the 108-year-old building's energy efficiency.

The actual expenditures will have to be approved by the county council, but commissioners approved moving the plan forward.

Roughly, the timeline would involve boiler replacement in 2013, fan coil units in 2014 and new chiller in 2015.

Perhaps the worst piece of budgetary news came from the Putnam County Sheriff's Department.

Jail Commander Joe Myers explained to the commissioners how the number of Department of Correction (DOC) inmates is down at the Putnam County Jail.

While there used to be nearly 80 DOC offenders at the jail, the number is currently around 25. With recent changes to state law that Class D felonies will now be served in county jails, space will begin to open up in state prisons, likely further reducing the number of DOC inmates in county jails.

The hardship this has placed on the county lies in the fact that it receives $35 per day for each DOC inmate housed at the jail. When the number of inmates was three times larger, there was plenty of money to fund the jail staff, with more flowing to the county general fund.

The previous split of the DOC daily money was $15 to the jail and $20 to county general.

This is no longer a workable solution at the jail, which cannot afford even minimal levels of staffing.

Myers, along with Sheriff Steve Fenwick and jail matron Ashley O'Hair, proposed an end to the split for the time being. Although the money no longer flowing to county general will cause a problem, the jail budget would eventually be tapped out, causing the money to flow from other sources anyway.

Like other budgetary requests, the commissioners could not grant approval, but did approve approaching the council with the request.

The Putnam County Council is in for a busy two months. Besides its monthly meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 27 (one week later than normal), the council will conduct 2014 budget hearings on Sept. 16 and 17, with the regular September meeting following at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 17.

The commissioners will next meet at 6 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 19.

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    Beware Putnam County residents - you may see an uptick in arrests, probation, and other "user" fees soon. The county has to keep their people employed, you know... better that than a reduction of staff that a private company would have to face.

    -- Posted by dreadpirateroberts on Fri, Aug 9, 2013, at 1:30 PM
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