County starting to move money for annex facility project

Six years after elected officials began talking about replacing the 87-year-old deteriorating Bartholomew County Annex building, funds are being aligned to pay for construction of a new facility.

The Bartholomew County Council will be asked Tuesday to provide $2 million from county reserves, also known as the rainy day fund, for the $3.25 million project.

The council also will consider an additional $600,000 — half from the county’s telecommunications fund and the remainder from existing economic development income tax (EDIT) proceeds — for demolition and construction costs.

Paid by cable television companies, the county’s nearly $1 million in telecommunications funds consist of franchise fees collected over the years.

By placing $2.6 million into an account specifically for the annex project, the county will meet legal requirements necessary to seek construction bids before the end of the year, Bartholomew County Commissioners Chairman Larry Kleinhenz said.

No more than $1 million will actually be spent this year, Kleinhenz said.

So far, the only money that has been spent on the project is for architectural fees, being funded by the Cummins Foundation.

Snow Kreilich Architects of Minneapolis was selected to design the project last November, but disagreements regarding cost and design have held up finalizing the plan, Kleinhenz said. However, he said he is optimistic that differences will be ironed out after architect Julie Snow meets with county officials Tuesday.

Commissioners are asking to wait until additional EDIT funds are available early next year to place the remaining $650,000 necessary for the project’s completion into the annex account, he said.

That step will provide the Bartholomew County Highway Department with an additional $300,000 this year to almost double the miles of roads that will receive a new blacktop, Kleinhenz said.

County Highway Superintendent Dwight Smith is expected to recommend five additional miles for blacktop surfacing during Monday’s 10 a.m. commissioners meeting.

County officials learned of a new financial concern this week that may come up during Tuesday’s county council meeting.

Despite reforms enacted last year to shore up the county’s self-funded health insurance fund, a number of large medical claims recently were submitted, Auditor Barb Hackman said.

Although more money will be placed into the health insurance account this summer, the July 6 balance was $29,000, much lower than expected, she said.

Last year, medical claims rose to $5,731,973, a 137 percent increase from medical expenses a year earlier, according to county records.

Where the money comes from

The Bartholomew County Council will consider using the following funds to finance a new $3.25 million county annex building:

  • $2 million from county reserve (rainy day) fund
  • $300,000 from county telecommunications fund
  • $300,000 from current economic development income tax (EDIT) allocation
  • $650,000 from 2016 EDIT allocation

The council is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the fourth-floor chambers in the Bartholomew County Government Office Building, at Third and Franklin streets.     

Annex history

Built in 1928, the former schoolhouse at 1971 State St. was converted into the Bartholomew County Annex building in 1973. 

It currently houses the nursing division of the Bartholomew County Health Department, the local Purdue Extension office and Adult Protective Services.  

Escalating maintenance costs prompted county officials to begin setting aside money for its replacement in 2009. 

Due to the deterioration, the Women, Infants and Children’s clinic moved out in March 2014, relocating to the Doug Otto United Way Center.

A month later, the Bartholomew County Council approved $3.25 million for a new building.

Demolition is scheduled from September through October. Construction on a new building is likely to begin next spring, with completion likely in early 2017.   

Design plans have not yet been finalized for the future annex site.  However, a separate building that will be erected on the same site will house the Volunteers in Medicine clinic.     

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.