Commissioners need $1.3 million for building repairs

Officials seek big budget increase

In what was described as a “warning” to both taxpayers and county council members, the Bartholomew County Commissioners announced they are preparing to seek a 12.3-percent increase in their 2018 budget, mostly to cover repairs and renovations.

During the county council’s budget talks, scheduled to begin Aug. 9, the commissioners plan to request $12,291,552 — up from $10,940,053 this year, according to budget documents.

The commissioners are “not necessarily proud” of seeking $1,351,499 more, said their chairman Carl Lienhoop, but he emphasized the proposed increase was one reached only after considerable deliberation.

The commissioners need up to $500,000 to make repairs to the heating, cooling and electrical systems at the courthouse, commissioner Larry Kleinhenz said. About $300,000 worth of upgrades are needed at the Bartholomew County Memorial for Veterans, he added.

Story continues below gallery

In total, the commissioners plan to seek $1.2 million for building repairs and renovations for 2018, commissioner Rick Flohr said.

Besides building renovations, the proposal also includes a 5-percent increase in insurance costs, as well as an additional $400,000 in employee benefits, Flohr said.

While the Bartholomew County Council controls all finances, it is the commissioners’ responsibility to maintain county facilities — even when a lack of funds keeps prompting annual renovation postponements, Kleinhenz said.

“We’ve done that the last five years to help through the tough times,” he said. “But there comes a point when you’ve got to accomplish some of the projects that are in need of repair.”

Monday’s announcement comes more than four months after the commissioners received a consultant’s report that said it could cost more than $12 million to renovate or replace deteriorating county facilities over the next decade.

Five of the seven council members also heard the Feb. 27 findings from DLZ Indiana Inc., an Indianapolis-based engineering and architectural firm. At that time, DLZ principal architect Eric Ratts described the 65-year-old Bartholomew County Highway Garage, located at 2452 State St., as “functionally obsolete.”

Although Lienhoop said neither the courthouse nor the memorial were in danger of falling over, Flohr continues to maintain there is a greater urgency to address problems at the highway garage.

That facility, located at 2452 State St., “may or may not fall over in the next four or five years,” Flohr said Monday. “It is bad.”

However, Kleinhenz and Lienhoop kept their focus on the courthouse and adjacent memorial during their comments.

None of the three commissioners said where they expect the additional money to come from. Instead, Kleinhenz said he only wants to “make the (county) council aware of what we need and why we need it.”

Budget timetable

Aug. 9:  Review of estimated levy limits and estimated circuit breaker impacts. Request all taxing units to comment on proposed budgets, levies and tax rates.

August 16-19: All-day budget reviews with county offices and the Columbus Area Visitors and Promotion Commission. Reviews may continue the following week if needed.

Sept. 1: Roundtable meeting with appointed and elected officials.

Sept. 13:  First reading of proposed 2018 budget with public hearing.

Oct. 11:  Second reading and adoption of 2018 budget.

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