County Election center plans in limbo
The Robertson County Commissioners’ Court experienced “sticker shock” when the panel looked at cost estimates for a new election center that was originally projected to cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $250,000. Estimates of the cost of extensive site work have driven the price tag to a projected $535,108 and put the entire project on shaky footing. Unfortunately, the current Election Center is on borrowed property and the lender, First Baptist of Franklin, may soon need its space back.
After approving minutes and an employee bond, the panel turned its attention to election matters, placing the vote canvasses of the recent Democratic and Republic primaries on the County Clerk’s record and approving County contracts with all the cities and school districts holding elections on May 10 (all municipalities and ISD’s except Franklin ISD). It also allowed an election office employee to accrue comp time at time and a half for working on Memorial Day.
Next, it accepted Woodforest Ln. and Stonewood Dr. into the County road maintenance inventory (Pct. 1) and authorized the panel to sign off on a Proclamation presented by the CPS Board of Robertson County declaring April Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Courthouse Construction Manager Jim Hanks reported that historic jail reconstruction should be completed by the end of the week. Windstream would have to reprogram a switch on April 2 but the building could function on a secondary switch until the re-programming was complete. In later action, the Court hired a company to move law enforcement offices now in rented space into the historic jail on Monday, March 31, for $2,485.37.
Modifications to the courthouse annex to accommodate law enforcement offices are also nearing completion and the Court allowed Annex contractor David Bailey to make a third draw of $14,000 to pay for renovations. With the current draw, the County will have paid $37,000 on basement and second floor alterations.
The sticky problem of Courthouse square drainage was again addressed. Hanks said he was installing a bigger vault (to catch water), and the irrigation system that is designed to re-use collected water had been simplified to make it more effective.
Returning to a problem dating back to construction of the Courthouse Annex three years ago, the panel voted to release a masonry contractor’s $10,000 bond after only three years of its five-year term. The bond was originally set because the contractor did not follow instructions and the $10,000 was held to fix damage if any occurred. None have despite a hard winter so the Court agreed to a settlement releasing $5,000 to the contractor and keeping the other $5,000 in case future repairs had to be made to the arch in question. Commissioner Donald Threadgill (pct. 2) voted against the settlement, stating that he believed the contractor should keep to the original agreement.
Most “construction related matters” focused on the unanticipated cost of the proposed new election center on a lot a block north of the courthouse annex. The center has run out of space and the lot it occupies needs to be returned to its owner. The current proposal lists $157,055 of the estimated $535,108 cost of the project for site improvements to keep water from draining off the property and flooding the adjacent lots. Site improvements include adding 6 feet of “fill,” building a retaining wall to redirect the water, and building a parking lot. The initial reaction of at least two commissioners (Threadgill and Pct. 1 Commissioner Keith Petitt) was “no.” The Court looked at two other possible locations—the old precinct 3 lot that would probably present no site problems but would be a longer distance from the Courthouse—limiting the use of the building-- and a building formerly owned by Dick Watson, which had once been considered. The Court decided to take a longer look at the options during a special called meeting on Tuesday, April 1.
Next, the Court tabled a request by Emergency Management Coordinator Billy Huggins to construct a 20 X 30’ shed to house County-owned generators until it could consider another and perhaps better option.
It also tabled renewing a contract with Blackboard Connect, provider of the County’s reverse 9-1-1 service. Judge Jan Roe stated that the last all-call was successfully delivered to onl y 56% of county residents with phones, a very poor percentage considering the cost of the service, she pointed out. The company either needs to make corrections or the County should look for another provider.
The commissioners accepted Denena Ln. In Pct. 2 into the County maintenance inventory and considered three Hotel/Motel Tax fund requests. It approved $4,350 for Polish Days promotion, $3,053 to the Carnegie Library to film its windows to cool the building and protect its collection from sun damage, and it tabled consideration of a $9,500 request for Camp Hearne’s Oct 18 “Day in the Life” celebration until it could answer some questions about fund usage. It approved a $500 reimburse to Camp Hearne for last year’s event.
The panel also approved an inter-local agreement with the city of Hearne to pay $18,075 for improvements (paving) to the old Life-Time Doors property, which is about to re-open as a molding company, hiring about 25 Robertson County residents as employees. The panel voted to pay for the paving out of Road and Bridge contingency funds.
In the meeting’s closing minutes, the Court approved an invoice listing of $471,501.63—over a third going to courthouse, jail and annex construction work—and approved bids for chip seal and asphalt with contracts going to Martin Asphalt (chip seal) and Urgon (primary supplier) and Cleveland Asphalt (secondary) for RC 250 and CRS2 asphalt.
Melissa Freeman | Robertson County News