Canvass confirms March 4 election results

3/10/2014

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

After Monday's vote canvass of the March 4 special election, the results remained the same.

According to the certified results, Finney County voters approved extending a quarter-cent, county-wide sales tax with 840 voting yes, and 607 voting no.

The sales tax will be used for a $6.625 million county building project and property tax stabilization in Garden City and Holcomb.

Turnout was low. Just 1,448 people out of 16,744 registered voters cast a vote during the special election, which translates to 8.65 percent turnout.

Thirty-eight people voted provisional ballots. Of those, 28 were accepted from people who had reregistered since the last election and voted at the wrong location; and 10 were disallowed due to either not being registered, registration signatures not matching, not having proof of citizenship or not mailing the ballot in by the deadline.

The 25,000-square-foot Correction Services Center is to house court services, youth services and community corrections on county-owned property next to the juvenile detention center.

The quarter-cent sales tax, which will generate about $1.8 million per year, was originally approved in 1997 to pay for improvements to the Law Enforcement Center. Sales tax revenue has been strong enough to pay off the LEC bonds three years early. The tax is set to expire in July, after the final LEC bond payment.

County officials indicated Monday, construction may not start until next spring and the building might not be open until 2016. The project can't begin until the LEC bonds are completely paid off.

"I think it will be next year before construction could start because we have to decide exactly what we want in the building, get an architect, get the drawings, go out for bid. By that time, we're looking at starting next spring at the earliest," Randy Partington, county administrator, said.

To study the scope of the building, Partington said he would recommend forming a committee that would include county representatives, department representatives and representatives from the general public. One goal will be to identify opportunities to save money and bring the project cost under $6 million.

"If we can downsize anything I think we ought to because ... 92 percent of the people in Finney County did not vote for this," Commissioner Roman Halbur said.

Partington agreed.

"Before the commission authorizes bonding for it, we should make sure exactly what we need, and we spend plenty of time working at that," Partington said.

Partington also recommends the county use a request for proposals process to select and interview architects.

Because the building won't be ready anytime soon, Halbur recommended community corrections and youth services, who rent office space with leases set to expire later this year, contact their landlords about the possibility of lease extensions.

Partington said he recommended to Beth Beavers, community corrections director, that they ask for a two-year extension, and would likely recommend youth services do the same. He said the building that's housing community corrections is for sale, so if a new owner comes along and doesn't want the department in there, the county many need to assist them for a short period in finding a new temporary location.

"We need to be thinking about that," Halbur said.

Also on Monday, the commission approved a change order of $8,310 to modify the ramps for people with disabilities on the south side of the Exhibition Building, to add level stopping areas along the ramp and handrails, and to make additional curb cuts on both sides of Lake Avenue.

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