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.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.