Courthouse work a step closer to reality
The Harrison County Board of Commissioners and Harrison County Council may be getting closer to agreeing on the renovations to take place at the downtown courthouse. With some items now scratched off the to-do list, the project hovers around $1.9 million.
The council has not approved more than $2.3 million in funding to replace a failing HVAC system, fix eroding pipes and install a security system and new electric door locks at the courthouse.
Some members of the council have said the costs are more than they had expected, and the project has been at a standstill for months.
“None of the things that we’ve talked about over the last few years are actually yet accomplished,” said Judge John Evans at a recent council meeting.
Evans has said staff have to wipe down chairs due to a lack of humidity control in the building.
Commissioner Kenny Saulman said last week the water fountains are shut off due to lead being found in the water.
Last week, Mark Shireman of Shireman Construction, which has led the design of the project, notified the commissioners during a special meeting that the company that was awarded the project could no longer honor its bid and the county will have to work with the second-lowest bidder, Seufert Construction. Shireman said Seufert’s will honor that bid through the end of August.
During the same meeting, Jon Stepro, who is in charge of the county’s maintenance department, said the air conditioner is running on one compressor and is working twice as hard without shutting off.
“We are pushing it to the limits,” said Commissioner Jim Heitkemper.
Commissioner Kenny Saulman said Seufert’s bid is for $1,950,000, with the removal of technology enhancements, which also eliminates the need for a technology consultant. Cuts proposed so far total approximately $97,000.
Council president Donnie Hussung said he felt some councilors thought there were some items that didn’t need to be addressed through the bid.
“There wasn’t no problem approving a fix or a study of the HVAC system and see what we can do to fix everything,” Hussung said to the commissioners. “It was all the additional fluff that was added in.”
Other cuts could include lighting.
Hussung said the maintenance department could find replacement bulbs to make sure all lights in the building match. He also thought the electronic lock wasn’t necessary when it sounded like locks just needed to be re-keyed.
“I think those are the kind of things that might be a sticking point with some of the other council members,” Hussung said.
Commissioner Charlie Crawford told Hussung he wants to further discuss the project with Shireman to see what non-necessary items can be removed.
The commissioners had the special meeting Thursday to support a request for the local school corporations to receive $100,000 in funding to help them earn a grant to boost internet access for students while learning remotely from home. The state required grant submissions last week.
In other county business, Harrison County Emergency Management Agency director Greg Reas said the county’s mass notification system, Everbridge, is up for renewal. The commissioners have approved Reas’ request for $12,000 to move forward to the council but asked him to look for a grant to cover costs. The county had been awarded a grant to cover at least part of the funds in the summer of 2018.
Also, commissioner and council meetings that took place between March and May, when the elected bodies met via teleconference, have been posted to the county’s website for listening as an audio-only format, as officials did not meet in person. No recording is currently available for the June 22 council meeting.