County Revises Office Construction Plans
The Fulton County commissioners revealed last week that their plans for the construction of a new county office building have been revised greatly in comparison to when they kicked off their series of town meetings and aired their wishes earlier this year.
At their most recent public meeting held Thursday, November 6, at the Warfordsburg Senior Center, Commissioner David Hoover II reminded the eight individuals on hand the county's "utopia" for construction related expenses would fall between $7 and $8 million. However, in hopes of not raising local residents' millage rates beyond onequarter mill, the commissioners had previously set a more realistic spending budget scaled back to $5 million.
Hoover announced their newest set of plans now calls for spending in the amount of $2.5 million. Those plans will not include the creation of a two-story office building and will primarily focus on the rehabilitation of existing structures as well as the relocation of several complements of county personnel.
Hoover elaborated, in accordance with these tentative plans, the commissioners are still moving ahead with their original plans of "going green" with the installment of a geothermal loop comprised of 50 to 60 wells in McConnell Park. The wells would not draw water from the groundwater supply but would continually recirculate whatever water is placed in the enclosed system.
Former county commissioner candidate Patrick Bard, who ran on the Democratic ticket in the 2007 election, questioned if the commissioners had taken into account the amount of land that is required when spacing or distancing the wells from one another. Bard also asked how the new plans will add to the county's existing parking, which was noted to be one of the goals of the project.
"Our three needs are parking, storage and buildings to carry us through the 21st century," said Hoover.
Fellow former county commissioner candidate L. Allen Morton had a few questions of his own in posing to the current board of commissioners, also comprised of Bonnie Mellott Keefer and Daniel H. Swain Jr., how much maintenance costs the county annually and how much additional time will elapse before the courthouse turns into a "major project" itself.
Commissioner Hoover responded the courthouse will receive a new heating and cooling system through the project and possibly new windows. Furthermore, the treasurer and prothonotary's offices will remain in their existing locations and other offices could be moved in. Other aspects to be addressed through the newly devised plan are solving drainage problems at the Neighborhood Service Center and analyzing and eliminating the odor problem at the Service for Children facility.
"We're not looking to buy or build anything new at this point. We don't want to raise taxes unless we have to," Commissioner Swain added.
"Two of you have been in office for a while now," Morton pointed out. "Why hasn't anything been done?"
Swain related "money" has been an ongoing factor as no one wants to spend it.
"That's no excuse," related Morton. "That's why you're in the situation you're in now."
Swain stated current plans will entail as much consolidation as possible, and in addition to courthouse offices, other offices, such as the Conservation District, the extension office, public defender and district attorney's offices, will also remain in their existing locations.
Commissioner Keefer stated their newest proposal is only a "shortterm solution" as certain issues will likely have to be re-evaluated in 10 years. "We just can't proceed with the current status of the economy," Keefer noted.
Former county treasurer David Wright reminded the commissioners of the proposal issued to the county by McConnellsburg resident Ray Koontz for the sale of the former IGA building for $500,000. The amount is reportedly $100,000 less than the building's appraised value.
"Someone is going to have to convince me this isn't a good idea. I really think you need to look at this ... I think it's a decent investment," Wright said, adding Koontz may possibly lower the IGA's sale price further
In comparison to Wright's comments, Christine Gorsuch, who was also in attendance at the November 6 meeting, chimed in that the building would cost $500,000 to purchase as well as an additional $1 million to fix it up.
With the conversation on the old grocery store getting slightly heated at times, Hoover concluded he "felt very strongly against" the idea based on health issues. Commissioner Keefer stated she did not have a problem with revisiting the issue but said she needed to double check how much of Koontz's rental income from the building is tied to Fulton County Medical Center.