Logan County Board to put jail and
courthouse building costs to public by referendum
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[November 28, 2017]
Tuesday, November 21, the Logan County Board voted to put a
referendum on the March ballot for repairs to the courthouse.
Building and Grounds Chairman Kevin Bateman made a motion to go out
for bids for repairs for the interior and exterior dome of the
Courthouse, which passed unanimously.
Bateman has been researching contractors and said bids for the dome
repair will be done by a reliable contractor.
Board member Gene Rohlfs asked if the contractor would write
Bateman said the contractor would design the Requests for Proposal
to meet specifications. The contractor also plans to bid on the
Bateman said the dome is in dire need of repair and small pieces
have already fallen off. It would cost $157,000 to take the oculus,
the circular opening at the dome's center, out of the building. They
would then store it for restoration and put up a Lexan (high
strength plexiglass) dome to keep the heat and cold out. The Lexan
dome would be resistant to the smaller pieces falling.
Bateman's motion to put a referendum on the ballot in March for
building restoration purposes in the amount of $4 million, including
a feasibility study on what it would take to build a new facility.
Bateman said he wanted to discuss bumping up the referendum amount
to $15 M because the county also needs a new jail facility.
Board member Gene Rohlfs said if we are talking about a new facility
to increase capacity in addition to repairs at courthouse, we are
probably "conservative" with the $15 M figure.
State's Attorney Jonathan Wright said the public should be informed
that in the executive session that evening, the board discussed
security issues at the jail. That discussion turned into a motion
for the possibility to expand the jail as part of this bond
referendum. The jail expansion is based on numbers.
Wright said new prison reform coming will "put more pressure on
local county jails as opposed to few Department of Correction
Bateman said the new laws going into effect January 1st mean the
county will have to expand the jail to add jail cells.
Board Chairman Chuck Ruben asked Bateman about a $19 M, 188-bed jail
Bateman said the one Ruben referred to was built brand new from the
ground up for $19 M.
Bateman said in discussion with other board members and sheriff, if
we can add on to the facility we have since we have the land to do
so, the figure would be about $10 M.
The dome part of the roof and the oculus inside is 112 years old and
repair would be about $3.5 million. The outside elevator is obsolete
and if one part breaks, they are taking spare parts from the spare
elevator, and Bateman got a rough estimate from an elevator firm for
an outside elevator. Bateman said a couple other projects need to be
addressed at the courthouse, which puts the amount just shy of $14
M, so he "rounded the amount to $15 M to cover it all."
Ruben said it would be an increase in property taxes. On a $4.4 M
bond paid back in 20 years, it would mean a $14 increase in annual
property taxes for someone who owns a $100,000 home.
Ruben said if you keep doubling that amount out, you get a higher
increase, which becomes a substantial burden on taxpayers.
Rohlfs said he would like to eliminate that on the tax burden
through a sunset clause.
Ruben said he did not think a sunset clause would be needed. Once
the bond is paid off, the higher tax rate would go away.
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Board member David Hepler asked if they could vote on the issue
without having the language for the referendum.
Ruben said the board has until January 2 to put the issue on the March
referendum, They can get the bond company to come in and write the resolutions
Board member Scott Schaffenacker said the last building referendum was in 1972.
He motioned to amend the referendum amount to $15 M.
Bateman has reached out to other counties as he researched the issue and said
Livingston County just built a new facility with courtrooms for $13 M, which did
not include a jail. Bateman said $15 M is "still extremely frugal with taxpayer
Wright asked the board if they could accomplish getting this issue on the
referendum between now and March. When the Public Safety Tax was put on the
ballot, Sheriff Nichols and EMA Director Dan Fulscher had 17 town hall meetings.
One county had 47 town hall meetings about a jail expansion and the measure
Wright said there is only so much political capital to go to the public with a
bond referendum and you cannot keep coming back to the public every couple years
asking for more bond and more tax money. The voting public may ask why the
amount is $15 M and not $12 M or some other figure.
Bateman said there is not enough time to sell the issue properly. The problem is
the courthouse is in need of immediate repair because small pieces are already
falling from the dome. They have not done a feasibility study on the jail yet
Bateman said he would look to remodel and expand on the jail we already have.
Bateman said he would tell citizens who ask, we are under a time crunch and we
have come up with the best number we possibly can. He said they could easily
stay under $15 M and come in under budget.
Schaffenacker asked about putting the issue on the November ballot and motioned
they amend it to put it on the November ballot.
Bateman asked about putting it on the November ballot if it fails on the March
ballot. That would give the board time to "sell" the issue.
Rohlfs said he has seen some referendums take three or four times to pass.
The motion to put the referendum for $4 M on the March ballot passed 7-5 with
Kevin Bateman, Janet Dahmm, Emily Davenport, David Hepler, Gloria Luster, Scott
Schaffenacker and Annette Welch voting yes; and Dave Blankenship, Bob Farmer,
Gene Rohlfs, Chuck Ruben, and Bob Sanders voting no.
The amended motion to put a $15 M referendum on the ballot in March passed 8-4
with Kevin Bateman, Janet Dahmm, Emily Davenport, David Hepler, Gloria Luster,
Chuck Ruben, Scott Schaffenacker and Annette Welch voting yes; and Dave
Blankenship, Bob Farmer, Gene Rohlfs, and Bob Sanders voting no.
Ruben said it is a difficult decision, but putting it on the ballot will give
people a chance to look on it and decide whether it is a worthwhile expense.
Board members present were Kevin Bateman, Dave Blankenship, Janet Dahmm, Emily
Davenport, Bob Farmer, David Hepler, Gloria Luster, Gene Rohlfs, Bob Sanders,
Scott Schaffenacker and Annette Welch, with Board Chairman Chuck Ruben