Courthouse project topic of joint meeting
Kaitlyn Clay, Staff Writer, [email protected]
The Harrison County commissioners and council had a joint meeting last Wednesday afternoon at the government center to discuss future design plans for the Harrison County Court House. However, without any engineers, Commissioner Charlie Crawford or council members Jennie Capelle, Ross Schulz and Brad Wiseman present, it was hard for the two groups to reach any general consensus.
Commissioner Jim Heitkemper mentioned to the council that a mechanical firm, at no charge, recently surveyed the work that needed to be done regarding the HVAC system at the courthouse and submitted a proposal.
The proposal included items like replacing pumps, adding a new chiller, replacing piping and more. It did not, however, address the plumbing or electrical issues, things Heitkemper said he hoped to include in the same project that would be presented to the council.
After much discussion between the two governing bodies, Heitkemper and Nelson Stepro, who began his first term as a commissioner Jan. 1, left the meeting with some guidance about what the council wants to see in a future proposal regarding designs, and that is for it to all be presented with broken down figures for each design aspect, rather than in one lump sum figure like in the past.
In 2020, the commissioners had brought the council about a $2 million project proposal to fix areas in the courthouse, including the plumbing, lighting and HVAC issues.
The main problem with that — and why it was not approved — according to Councilman Kyle Nix, was that they had no way of determining how much of the funds would be going to fix what areas and he had hoped for more specifics in numbers before making a decision.
Council president Donnie Hussung echoed Nix’s remarks at last week’s meeting, saying it would be very difficult for him to approve something without knowing where every dollar was going.
“I have to be able to explain to our taxpayers how everything is broken down,” Hussung said. “I want us to have a good project that we can all support, but I need to be able to justify each part of the work being done.”
Nix mentioned the possibility of presenting each project separately and starting bids on things like plumbing and electrical sooner rather than later.
However, Heitkemper said he had hoped to keep the entirety of the project intertwined.
Hussung also noted to the two commissioners that he would like to see alternative options so that the council is able to compare prices to ensure they are getting the best deals.
Both commissioners and all council members who were at the meeting said they would enjoy working with local partners as much as possible as well.
Councilwoman Holli Castetter said she believed they were off to a good start by at least discussing the issue together and letting the commissioners know what they were hoping to see. She added she hopes for as much transparency during this project as possible and for it to be done in a fiscally responsible way.
The council and commissioners will have another joint meeting Wednesday, Feb. 17, at 3:30 p.m. at the government center to discuss the issue further.