County may borrow for courthouse work

By Josh Ellerbrock -

ALLEN COUNTY — Since taxpayers rejected a sales tax increase that would have provided funds for capital improvement projects, Allen County Commissioners have been considering how to deal with the county’s aging buildings with the secondary plans they had initially passed over because of additional costs.

Allen County Commissioner Cory Noonan said commissioners had initially chosen to go forward with asking for a sales tax price increase because it was the most efficient and cheapest plan to pay for capital improvements. Now that it’s off the table, commissioners are returning to the drawing board with K2M Engineering to see what government functions can be shifted around in the courthouse in order to make renovations to the courthouse while recouping some of the efficiencies included in the original capital improvement plan.

To pay for courthouse renovations, Noonan said the county will most likely have to obtain some sort of loan, which will add to the interest the county currently pays.

“At the end of the day, we’re not going to see the same return on the efficiencies in the general fund,” Noonan said.

Although the county is close to finishing the repairs to the roof and clocktower to mitigate water damage already done to the fourth floor of the courthouse, commissioners said the courthouse is still in need of an update. Just this past week, the third floor ceiling began to leak because of the failure of a fourth floor water pipe.

As of now, commissioners are considering keeping the General Division in the Allen County Justice Center while shifting the rest of the courts into the courthouse. That means the county’s administrative departments, such as the Clerk of Courts, Treasurer’s Office and Auditor’s Office, would need to be moved.

Noonan said they would like to ensure the offices stay close enough to each other so real estate professionals can still get their business accomplished without having to go to multiple buildings. If the offices are shuffled between buildings, a potential option could be to open up the walkway between the Allen County Courthouse and the Allen County Justice Center to the public.

In related news, commissioners recently met with Allen County Engineer Brion Rhodes about his secondary plan to pay for roads and bridges, which includes two $5 increases on license permit fees to raise an additional $750,000 per year to be added to the county’s road budget. The original sales tax plan would have added $500,000 to the county’s road budget per year.

By Josh Ellerbrock

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

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