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Officials study options for vacant building adjacent to courthouse

Officials study options for vacant building adjacent to courthouse

By CHRIS MENEES
Staff Reporter
County commissioners are studying options before making a decision about the future of the Obion County Board of Education’s former central office.
The office building — located on South Third Street in Union City, adjacent to the courthouse — became vacant last month when the school board office relocated to the former vocational school at 1700 North Fifth St.
Since then, Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire has been examining options for what to do with the county-owned building. He presented a couple of specific proposals to the county’s courthouse committee Friday morning at the courthouse.
The former school board office was built in 1974 and is 6,250 square feet. According to an appraisal from a certified appraiser, the building would carry a sale price of $237,000, McGuire told county commissioners.
The mayor said the building is in good shape overall, but some of the carpet needs to be replaced and it needs some brick and gutter work due to water which stands on the north end of the roof.
Among the options to be considered are renting the building, selling it or moving some existing courthouse offices to the adjacent building. McGuire said courts cannot be located there since the building cannot be certified for security, based on state specifications.
McGuire has met with all elected officials and he said the No. 1 problem in the courthouse is storage space, particularly for the courts.
He presented commis-sioners on the courthouse committee with two proposals — one which has the county mayor’s office and the county clerk’s office moving to the former school board office, with a meeting room in the center; and a second which proposes adding on to the former school board building and relocating all of the courthouse’s first-floor offices there.
Several elected officials who have offices in the courthouse were in attendance at Friday’s meeting. Register of deeds Vicky Long, trustee Lori Seals and property assessor Judy Smith all indicated they do not want to relocate their offices from the courthouse, explaining their offices often work in conjunction to serve citizens.
Obion County Circuit Court Clerk Harry Johnson said he appreciates the opportunity to have more space for the courts, but he said he believes the proposals need more study before a decision is made.
County commissioner Jim Bondurant, a member of the courthouse committee, said the first proposal about relocating the mayor’s and county clerk’s offices makes the most sense and “satisfies” the most elected officials. However, fellow commissioner and committee member Tim Doyle said he is more in favor of selling the building, noting disappointment in the appraisal price.
There was also some discussion about the safety issue of people currently having to go to the second floor of the courthouse to pay court fines and tickets, with McGuire explaining he would like to see Johnson have an office on the ground floor. He said some people “hobble” upstairs and he said some people have suffered falls.
Courthouse committee chairman Dean Jowers said he is not in favor of renting or selling the building, nor is he in favor of the second proposal which relocates the first-floor offices. Commissioner Terry Dwyer, also a member of the committee, expressed some concerns about costs and said he believes the proposals need more study.
Dwyer made the motion to table action until next month to further study the proposals. Bondurant said he would like to see more study specifically on the first proposal and would like to see detailed costs for relocating the mayor’s and county clerk’s offices, and the committee ultimately approved having a more detailed report on the first proposal brought back to the committee.
Before the vote, commissioner Donnie Braswell, who was in the audience, suggested they consider upgrades to improve the existing courthouse and keep all of the offices in the same building. Commissioner Sam Sinclair, also in the audience, mentioned the possibility of selling the former school board building and putting the money into courthouse improvements.
Friday’s 40-minute courthouse committee meeting preceded a session of the county’s budget committee, which was moved up to Friday rather than today due to a scheduling conflict for some members.
In light of the courthouse committee’s decision to table action on the building, the budget committee decided to forego hearing a report from the courthouse committee’s session since budget committee members were also in attendance at the committee meeting which preceded their meeting. The only item on the courthouse committee’s agenda was discussion of the former school board office building.
The budget committee meeting lasted just 20 minutes and included only a handful of fairly routine items on the agenda.
Other action
In other action during Friday’s budget committee meeting, opened with prayer led by commissioner Danny Jowers, the committee:
• Voted to allow the budget committee to study the county’s personnel policies from each department in order to have more standardized policies. The recommendation was made by Danny Jowers in an effort to have policies which are more fair and “level” for all county employees.
The initial motion was for McGuire to appoint a committee to study the personnel policies, but an amendment which was approved calls for the budget committee to study the matter in August after the next fiscal year’s budget work is completed.
• Voted to forward to the full county commission a resolution to authorize a continuous five-year appraisal cycle for Obion County. It will be on the agenda for the June 17 commission meeting.
• Voted to place a review of the financial statement of the Indigent Care Trust Fund from Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union City on the county commission’s meeting agenda.
• Approved an in-house budget transfer of $60 for the Obion County Extension Service in order to correct an overage in the current budget.
• Voted to place on the full county commission’s agenda the appointments to two boards or committees. They include the Board of Hospital Governors, with Gene Scurlock recommended to serve; and the Reelfoot Lake Tourism Council, with Janis Cunningham recommended to serve.
• Approved placing notary public applications on the county commission’s agenda.
• Voted to place a report from the county’s insurance committee on the agenda for the commission meeting.
• Agreed to make the next county commission meeting an evening session rather than a morning meeting. It will be held June 17 at 7 p.m. at the courthouse.
• Learned the budget committee will meet again June 20 at 5 p.m. at the courthouse to continue work on the county’s 2013-14 fiscal year budget.

Published in The Messenger 6.3.13

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