County to assess bond costs of court project
By SCOTT AUST
The Finney County Commission voted Monday to send a proposed court-related services project to the county's financial advisor to determine the potential bond cost for the estimated $6.5 million project.
Randy Partington, county administrator, said he doesn't know what the bond cost will be, but guessed it could push the estimated total cost of the project close to $7 million.
The county is looking to extend a quarter-cent sales tax to pay for a court services related building project that would house court services, youth services and community corrections on county-owned property adjacent to the juvenile detention facility.
Currently, the sales tax is being used to pay for cost of improvements made in the past to the Law Enforcement Center. Bonds for that project are anticipated to be paid off sometime next June, July or August.
Cost estimates for the project have grown. Just a few weeks ago, the county estimated it could cost $4.3 to $5 million. On Monday, the commission was presented three options for the building's basement; a small, 2,500-foot partial basement as included in the original plan, a 12,000-square-foot partial basement or a full, 24,000-square-foot basement. The total cost estimates for the three building versions ranged from $5.3 million to $6.5 million, not including the bonding cost.
Commissioner Dave Jones said the basement is about the least expensive part of a building, and he leaned heavily in favor of a full basement even if it wasn't entirely occupied immediately.
"It's somewhat wasteful, in my opinion, to build a building that's just big enough for the day you move in and the next week it's too small," Jones said. "Saying that, I also wonder if there's a possibility to look at some alternatives to that building."
Jones suggested taking a look at the cost of buying and renovating an existing building or buildings for court service related needs, even while preparing for a possible ballot issue for the new building. Jones said he is not sure what's available that would fit the need.
"I think we've got a hard sell coming up on sales tax in this amount. So we definitely need Plan B," Jones said.
Commissioner Larry Jones said his only problem with talking about a Plan B right now is it could confuse voters.
"If we decide to do this, let's go with it. And then if it fails, then you go back and figure out what we have to do," he said.
To hold a special election in March asking voters for a sales tax extension, the county needs to approve a resolution by the end of December. Over the next couple of months, the county also needs to finalize building plans and determine total bond cost.
Commissioner Roman Halbur said another thing the county needs to do is to encourage the city of Garden City to direct a portion of its share of the LEC sales tax toward the project.
"This is a very costly project. I believe they would equally benefit from this as we will," Halbur said.
Partington suggested asking the city to be included on an upcoming city commission agenda so commissioners can make a formal request.
In other business Monday:
* Commissioners renewed the county contract with Blue Cross/Blue Shield for 2014 employee health insurance coverage.
Partington said based on administrative rates and three-year average health claims, the calculated health insurance premiums for employees represents about a 10.23 percent increase overall. For an individual, the rate would go up $3.32, to $35.72 per pay period, while the family plan would go up $13.27 to $142.94 per pay period.
* Commissioners decided to start meeting at 6 p.m. on the first Monday of each month beginning in November. The commission will continue to meet at 8:30 a.m. on the third Monday every month. Commissioner Dave Jones said the change was made to try and accommodate more members of the public who want to attend commission meetings.