County pushes Plan B after sales tax voted down


By Josh Ellerbrock - jellerbrock@limanews.com



Todd Smith, an employee with Lee Restoration of Delphos, uses a lift to finish punch list work on the Allen County Courthouse restorations on Monday. A punch list is a construction list of things to do to finish the project.

Todd Smith, an employee with Lee Restoration of Delphos, uses a lift to finish punch list work on the Allen County Courthouse restorations on Monday. A punch list is a construction list of things to do to finish the project.


LIMA — Three months have passed since Allen County residents voted down the $35 million plan to fund county capital projects through a sales tax increase. Today, Allen County commissioners began their “Plan B” — borrowing funds and juggling projects to ensure deteriorating county properties can still house public services.

Juvenile Detention Center

As the project that catalyzed the formation of the capital improvement plan, the construction of a new Juvenile Detention Center remains a priority for commissioners.

The 20,000-square foot building project has moved forward since before the sales tax loss at the polls, and the $5 million borrowed from the Allen County Treasurer’s Office was meant to jump start its construction, and the sales tax funds would pay the final bill. That plan has changed.

The majority of the $1.6 million annually set aside for capital improvement projects will now be funneled into paying off the Juvenile Detention Center loan setting back the commissioners’ construction plans for two to three years.

Allen County Courthouse

For all intents and purposes, the courthouse clock tower and roof has been renovated for roughly the same cost as its removal. But the courthouse fourth floor remains abandoned due to heavy water damage. Without the ballot levy win, its fix becomes more complicated.

Originally, the county had planned to build a new office building for the county offices housed within the courthouse in order to simplify the downtown building’s renovation.

Commissioner Jay Begg said the courthouse will still need to be vacated in order to deal with its many maintenance needs, but no major decisions have been officially made in how that will be done. Construction of new offices hasn’t been scrapped entirely, but Begg said commissioners can’t determine what needs to be done until they examine the most cost efficient ways to move forward.

“We haven’t been able to do all the math yet, because we don’t have the resources that we had hoped,” Begg said.

Allen County Engineer’s Office

A new roof for the engineer’s office should keep the building reliable for a few more decades, and commissioners have already stabilized the situation by funding its construction. But some of the efficiencies that would have been saved with a new building may now be off the table, Begg said, depending on conversations with the Ohio Department of Transportation.

A larger space for the Allen County Engineer’s Office would have expanded the storage for vehicles and materials, which would have offset inefficiencies caused by fluctuating market prices.

Begg said the county is talking with ODOT to use some of the state’s space at its West Street facility, but commissioners are wary of undertaking increased maintenance costs at that property if the funds gained from salt and aggregate storage aren’t able to make the increased costs worth the savings.

Roads and bridges

Instead of an additional $500,000 annual increase to the engineer’s budget for county roads and bridges proposed by the sales tax plan, the commissioners approved rate hikes in license permit fees ($5 or $10 depending on where a resident lives) to increase the amount spent on county roads.

Begg said the additional $740,000 funded by the sticker fee increase should help, and the commissioners will continue to work with the engineer’s office to fund grant matches.

Kicking the can

While the projects were an important aspect of the commissioner’s project, Begg said the county may have to increase annual capital expenditures, currently set close to $1.6 million, to deal with future problems. At the current funding level, county property maintenance remains a stopgap measure, and if the funds devoted to capital projects doesn’t see a bump, county properties will steadily deteriorate.

“That was one of the advantages of the potential sales tax. It had a beginning and an end and prescribed the amount for things that were going to be done. While we might not have been there the whole 10 years, it had a beginning and an end. Now we’ll have to prioritize the expenditures and the repairs,” Begg said.

Begg estimates the county will have to borrow to meet revenues with capital expenditures. The additional tax burden caused by interest on county loans for capital projects is estimated to be $13 million.

“I think that over the course over the last few years, we’ve done our due diligence and identified what needs to be done,” Commissioner Cory Noonan said. “The funding is going to be different. It’s going to cost us a bit more. You look at some of the top items that were on that plan, those are the items that we’re going to tackle first.”

“When we came into this, the past five and half years that I’ve been a commissioner, we’ve dealt with debt that was on the books. Up until that point, we had just gotten out of debt. Unfortunately it looks like we’ll have to start another cycle,” Begg said.

Todd Smith, an employee with Lee Restoration of Delphos, uses a lift to finish punch list work on the Allen County Courthouse restorations on Monday. A punch list is a construction list of things to do to finish the project.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2018/08/web1_Punch-list_01co.jpgTodd Smith, an employee with Lee Restoration of Delphos, uses a lift to finish punch list work on the Allen County Courthouse restorations on Monday. A punch list is a construction list of things to do to finish the project.

By Josh Ellerbrock

jellerbrock@limanews.com

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

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