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Bartholomew County Commissioners plan to move ahead with a study of the county’s State Street annex building, hastening the county’s progress toward a replacement.
The commissioners and Bartholomew County Council have been deadlocked over the issue of what to do with the 85-year-old structure at 1971 State St., which is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and suffers from structural problems.
During August budget hearings, the council cut out about $490,000 from the commissioner-controlled budgets that was slated for work on a new annex, leaving only $30,000, enough money for a study of the property next year. Last month, commissioners said they planned to set aside $560,000 over the next two years for annex-related expenses paid for from economic development income tax funds that commissioners control.
Commissioners insist that the time to act on the building is now, while council members want to know more about the costs and options before agreeing to any plan.
What: Bartholomew County Commissioners
When: 10 a.m. today
Where: Commissioners chambers in Governmental Office Building, 440 Third St.
Agenda: Consideration of agreements with DLZ Indiana, Zenetra Corp., Nationwide, Worrell Corp. and for information technology services; health department fee pricing ordinance; grants for public health preparedness, Women Infants and Children and emergency management.
Commissioner President Carl Lienhoop said that the commissioners would act on the council’s study request, but instead of waiting until next year they want the study to commence as soon as possible.
“We feel like we need to keep pushing,” Lienhoop said during the County Council’s Sept. 30 work session.
Today, commissioners will consider signing a $14,500 contract with the DLZ Indiana engineering and architectural firm from Indianapolis to assess the condition of the building. Leinhoop said DLZ has a color-coded study process that it has used on buildings around the state that will assess the condition of all aspects of the building and property, giving timelines for how long they will last. The firm also will do a feasibility study and interview stakeholders at the existing annex.
Lienhoop hopes that, based on those interviews, commissioners will get a ballpark estimate of what a new building would cost, if that is the
direction elected officials decide to go.
The company estimated it would take 90 days to complete the study, Lienhoop said.
Commissioner Larry Kleinhenz said the study also would assess what it would cost for the county to purchase an existing building, such as a vacant grocery store, and rehabilitate it for county needs.
Council members said the proposed study won’t go far enough.
Council member Jim Reed said the council wants to know what it would cost to make the building usable and compliant.
Council member Ryan Lauer suggested the study during August’s budget hearings. He said he expected the work to cover two topics:
If it is worth the cost to renovate the old building.
Taking a comprehensive look at what functions and agencies it makes sense to include in a county annex.
The annex houses the Purdue Extension office, the Bartholomew County Health Department’s nursing program and the federal Women, Infants and Children program.
Lauer said commissioners should “not assume that what exists in the annex today would just be transplanted to a new building.”
He suggested that functions being done out of the county’s Governmental Office Building on Third Street could be better performed at an annex, such as the veterans service officer — where a first-floor office could be helpful to the population being served.
“I would like to emphasize that, boy, wouldn’t it be great for them to have an office on the first floor?” Lauer said. “And we have talked about other departments that might have synergy and work better together in that location.”
Kleinhenz said Lauer’s request would be better suited for follow-up conversations.
The commissioner thought county officials would make better judgments on what offices should be included in a new annex building than an outside firm.
Council President Jorge Morales stressed that he thinks the county should travel to other communities to see what they are doing before decisions are made. In 2001, when the county was considering a work-release center, county officials traveled to Hamilton and Madison counties to assess those operations before making recommendations. But Morales said the proposed study is a good first step.
Council member Evelyn Pence said she would like the study to also have an estimate on the demolition costs for the existing annex building.
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