|County moves forward on expansion of local courts|
The Washington County Commissioners spent a substantial amount of time at their regular meeting on Nov. 17 talking about the expansion of the sheriff’s department and superior court.
The commissioners voted unanimously to give RQAW Project Manager/Architect Eric S. Weflen permission to move forward in the design phase that will expand the facility on Jackson St.
The expansion would allow the county to move circuit court and the clerk’s office to the same building as the superior court.
According to Weflen, the cost estimate of the project falls between two price ranges. He said the low end estimate is $5,498,068 and the cost on the high end is $6,389,647.
He told commissioners if things go according to plan, they could get the project out for bids out by the end of February or early March.
The plan to this point meets all the needs of the sheriff’s department, the clerk and the two courts, according to Weflen.
“That’s a good point in time where you can receive bids and award a contract and hit the ground running with a break in the weather in the middle of spring,” he said.
The design committee met on Nov. 24 to continue discussion on designs.
After that meeting Weflen said design development will continue and will take about four weeks, at which point he plans to come back and update the commissioners.
After Commissioner David Brown made a motion to allow RQAW to proceed to the next step, President Phillip Marshall asked County Auditor Randall Bills about the funding.
The design fee for the project is $390,000.
The money to pay RQAW for the work done to this point, which totals around $17,000 is not available.
“I don’t feel comfortable, not having the bonding in place in order to pay that, when we have nothing to pay it with,” Bills said.
County Attorney Tom Scifres said bonding can’t be in place until the county knows what the bid for the project is.
Scifres and Weflen assured the commissioners and Bills, that there will be funds to pay the RQAW bills.
“This is about architectural fees,” he said. “Two meetings ago you signed a resolution declaring your intent to reimburse any expenses through the bond proceeds. We went through this with the jail expansion. We come up with alternative financing to pay the bills as they come due and work with RQAW.”
Scifres said the bonding will be in before RQAW’s final bill will be due. He also said on the jail expansion the county temporarily transferred funds until the bonding came through.
At that point, the money was transferred back into the fund it was taken out.
“Just know that we will continue to work with the county,” Weflen said. “. . . In the end we will continue to work with the county to make sure everything happens the way in needs to happen so it gets taken care of.”
Scifres said RQAW understands government financing and he doesn’t expect a lawsuit if the county is late on a payment.
After the unanimous vote, the commissioners received information from Ameresco about the energy efficiency of the addition.
The commissioners also met with members of the Washington County Soil and Water district about a log jam on Blue River in Fredericksburg.
The log jam has caused the loss of two acres according to Mike Ponsford.
“They are going to be pointing fingers at us one day down at the Delta because we are putting mud in the Ohio River and the Mississippi and on down past Baton Rouge and New Orleans,” Ponsford said.
Ponsford said there is a grant that could be used to help clean up the log jam.
He said the (LARE) Lake and River Enhancement grant can go up to $35,000 with a 20 percent match, with 10 percent in cash and the other 10 on anything like fuel and equipment used to clean up the area.
Brown agreed to meet with a group at the log jam Monday (Nov. 23) to see if the area qualifies for the grant.
The commissioners also set a date for a special meeting to pay the end of the year accounts payable and county payroll.
The meeting will be Dec. 29 in the auditor’s office at 9 a.m.