Funding found for $900,000 of courthouse overruns

LAPEL — An agreement hammered out among county officials has apparently resolved most of the funding shortfall for the completion of the Madison County Government Center asbestos remediation and remodeling.

Earlier this week, the council was informed the courthouse project was facing cost overruns of up to $1.4 million and was behind schedule. That figure was reduced to $1 million and the building will open on schedule on July 1.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Madison County Council, the final dollar figure for the completion of the Government Center work was set at $1,035,592.

The council is being asked to provide $543,593 toward that cost and the Madison County Commissioners are recommending transfers in the amount of $367,800, which leaves a shortfall of $125,000.

The council set a special meeting for May 29 to consider the additional appropriations and the transfer of funds.

Consultant Terry Burnworth with Pyramid Architecture and Engineering said the courts and prosecutor’s office can move back into the courthouse in two weeks and the remainder of the offices will be back in the building by July 1.

The county borrowed $3.5 million last year to finance the project.

“This is a move in the right direction,” Council President Anthony Emery said after the meeting. “The commissioners found money within their budget.”

Emery said action was delayed for council members to consider what was being requested in the way of transferring funds.

“We want to know what the long-term effect of that will be,” he said. “We don’t want the commissioners coming back for funding in the fall and cause a further shortfall.”

Councilman Clayton Whitson explained that if all the alternates were included, the additional cost would be $1.4 million.

He said the county council is responsible for $543,593 that was appropriated for the project in the past. The included the exterior railing around the courthouse, $84,000 in previous contracts and $384,000 for the new heating and air conditioning system.

“I’m not in favor of the county going into further debt,” Whitson said of the additional expenditures.

He is proposing using $393,583 from the county’s Rainy Day Fund, food and beverage tax revenues, funds remaining from the bond issued for the new radio station and $150,000 from the county’s group insurance fund.

Whitson said it was up to the commissioners to find the needed funding.

Commissioner John Richwine said most of the cost overruns on the project were a result of the remodeling of the courthouse, which was first opened in 1973.

Councilman Steve Sumner said he appreciated the hard work to come up with the funding sources, but didn’t want general fund operating funds used for the $125,000 needed to complete the project.

He suggested delaying for a year the replacing of the roof on the juvenile detention center and using the $120,000 for the courthouse project.

Sumner made a motion to approve the $367,800 in transfers requested by the commissioners, but the motion failed on a 4-3 vote.

“I wish they would have passed the transfers to keep the project timely and inform the contractors to proceed,” Richwine said after the meeting.

Richwine said there were alternates included in the bid process for the asbestos remediation and the amount of water used in that process caused other problems.

“We hammered it out,” Whitson said of his meetings with Richwine. “If they (commissioners) really wanted the alternates, they had to fund it. John provided us a plan.”

Whitson said he doesn’t believe there are enough votes to approve the additional $125,000, and during the meeting he asked Richwine what would be cut from the project.

Richwine said the commissioners would have to review the priorities.