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Maintenance workers removed crumbling plaster from the Bartholomew County Annex on Tuesday as a safety precaution.
If the Bartholomew County Commissioners have their way, such work won’t be necessary in the near future.
The commissioners are forging ahead with a plan to replace the old, deteriorating building despite funding for a replacement project being slashed by the County Council.
Their plan, outlined during Monday’s meeting, is to put aside $560,000 toward replacing the annex with a new local government building.
County Commissioners discussed their plan while talking about how to spend about $1.9 million a year gathered in 2014 and 2015 from economic development income taxes. The exact amount available from the EDIT taxes will not be known until next month.
The commissioners’ proposed EDIT plan would put $250,000 in 2014 and 2015 into a fund to be used for the future annex project. It also would set aside $30,000 each year for professional services related to the annex building.
During budget discussions last month, the council removed more than $490,000 from the commissioners’ budget proposal — money slated for work on a new annex project and maintenance. Instead, the council gave the commissioners $30,000 to study the existing annex building to see if it could be repaired.
Commissioners want to begin the process of replacing the aging building. Commissioners President Carl Lienhoop said that the commissioners-controlled EDIT money gives his board some flexibility in the funding they can use to focus on projects. The board is required to put together a plan every two years on how it plans to spend the revenue from the income taxes.
“We realize that we are all in this together and this particular budget session this year has probably gotten a little more contentious that it needed to be,” Lienhoop said. “Frankly, we feel like we probably have not quite gotten the consideration and respect from them that we are owed.”
The 85-year-old building, originally part of the East Columbus School at 1971 State St., is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and suffers from structural problems including leaking walls and roof, collapsed plumbing, unsafe stairs, a too-small elevator and non-functioning restrooms. The annex houses the Purdue Extension office, the Bartholomew County Health Department’s nursing program and the federal Women, Infants and Children program.
At the start of Monday’s meeting, Rick Trimpe, the county’s maintenance supervisor, said that large sections of inch-thick stucco have begun to fall from the annex building.
“Last Friday we got called over there, part of the wall has falling down on one of the entrances,” Trimpe said.
One 3-foot by 3-foot chunk that broke off during the weekend probably weighed about 25 pounds, Trimpe estimated.
The loose stucco was removed Tuesday so that no pieces could possibly fall on people coming through that entrance, Trimpe said.
Trimpe said other stucco throughout the building is in a similar condition, and workers may have to remove the wall surface in several locations. He cited the west-side main entrance as an area where stucco removal would be necessary. The commissioners’ plan is to not try to replace the stucco as it is removed, Lienhoop said.
“Cosmetically it is not going to be pretty, but we are not going to fix it,” Lienhoop said. “We will remove anything that looks loose, so that nobody gets hurt. That is as far as we are going right now.”
Commissioners expressed frustration that the council removed $75,000 from their
building improvements fund, used for maintenance at county buildings. For the first time, commissioners included $50,000 for emergency maintenance needs in the EDIT plan, Commissioner Larry Kleinhenz said.
“I hate to start doing that because I could see where it would lead to ‘Why don’t we take all of our maintenance out of that fund?’” Kleinhenz said. “The reality is that right now, in the next six weeks, if we had a major event of disaster ... we wouldn’t have enough money left to fix it. Depending on the timing, we would have to wait three or four weeks for funding unless a special (council) meeting was called.”
Lienhoop said the commissioners are planning to move ahead with the council-mandated annex study this year instead of next year and will likely choose a firm for the study at next week’s commissioners meeting.
“Let’s hope no major parts of the building fall down before we get our study done and can move forward on that project,” Lienhoop said.
County Attorney Grant Tucker said commissioners were not required to vote on the plan Monday but will eventually adopt a resolution formalizing their plan.
County Council gave first approval to the county’s 2014 budget last month and is expected to consider final approval at its Oct. 8 meeting.
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