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Supervisors spar over future of annex building

Board takes some action, tables other efforts

After months of discussions on the future of the Jasper County Annex building, the board of supervisors approved two action items on Tuesday. The board is seeking a new contract with Shive-Hattery Engineering Firm for potential future work and requested county maintenance director Adam Sparks research quotes for air scrubbers to be used in the building.

The lease agreement for the property at 114 W. Fourth St. S., a potential temporary location for the Jasper County Health Department, was tabled to next Tuesday’s meeting.

Discussions started hot as supervisor Joe Brock continued to champion his efforts to get the board to work together on projects and ideas.

“I asked a week ago that we start working more as a board and maybe originate our ideas in here of what we want to work towards and what we want to do. I don’t think we’ve decided that on this particular building,” Brock said. “What bothers me about this is to obtain a lease agreement without this board acting on that … it makes me wonder where this lease came from, how it originated.”

Brock said he would like to work on a location for the JCHD as a board, go and look at the location and then talk about a lease agreement. Supervisor Doug Cupples said he asked Brock for the past two weeks to look at the building, even going so far as to leave him a note, send him a text and send him an email. He said he didn’t receive a response from Brock. Brock said he did not like being told that he had to look at a building and that he didn’t want to get in a hurry to make any decisions.

Brock also asked Cupples if the board of health has been contacted about the space. Cupples said he has not gone over it with the board, only JCHD Director Becky Pryor.

“That originates with the board, too. I think we ought to be dealing with, Becky has a board she reports to,” Brock said. “We can make the decision on it but I think that is how I would like to proceed with it. I would suggest that we bring in the board to the discussion.”

Cupples asked Pryor if she had discussed the location with the board of health, to which she answered Margot Voshell, board chair, is aware but she and the rest of the board would like to see the building.

Brock continued to talk about working together as a board with ideas originating at board meetings when supervisor Denny Carpenter commented that Brock needs to set up the procedure the board is to go through to get it done.

“I would ask you to set it up and we’ll work with you. You take the lead on it Joe and we’ll work with you,” Carpenter said.

The supervisors moved to a discussion on the annex building and its future as a county building. Brock brought up several times the substantial amount of money he believes it will take to complete repairs and renovations to the building, including work to waterproof the basement and mechanical updates that will be needed in the near future.

“Once we start on this, we are down a road on this building, I know you estimated they can do it for half as much, but that $600,000 was just for foundation, the stairway and back dock and that is going to be a big, big undertaking when you start tearing concrete from a building,” Brock said. “Then we have our mechanicals that are probably going to have to be fixed in that building sooner or later. I think we need to look on down a long, long ways and not just start. We aren’t going to do it for $300,000, I don’t think we can do it for $600,000. I think we are looking at a million plus.”

Cupples said he thinks the part the board keeps overlooking is that there are still people in the basement. He said the lease at the building at 114 W. Fourth St. S. is affordable and adequate and gets those in the basement out.

“I know the mold report says there is probably no risk for them. But the reality is, with all of the hype and everything that has come up, it is in their head now,” Cupples said. “I know this, they want out of the basement. She (Becky Pryor) is willing to take a spot, it’s not the greatest spot in the whole world, but it helps solve a problem and helps us go to the next step of our situation where we can start to determine and make better decisions without them down there.”

Rural Jasper County resident Rhonda Paine, who has announced her intentions to run for the board of supervisors in 2018, addressed the board during the discussion, asking if the county was going to continue using the annex building after the basement occupants are moved out.

“If we are going to use the upper levels, it makes sense to strip out the damn basement, put the scrubbers in so if there is any mold it isn’t going to affect the people on the top floors,” Paine said. “Getting those people out of that building only makes sense because you are never going to find out what is wrong with the building until you get them out. It seems to me you are wasting tax payers dollars by putting things off. It irritates me to no end.”

Brock said it is not a big mystery what is wrong with the building. The Shive-Hattery exterior foundation assessment showed water infiltration and gave the recommendation of excavation of the foundation to remedy the issue.

Carpenter said by waiting on making a decision, the board is missing the best time of year to get quotes from contractors.

“The contractors are looking for work to get started on in the spring,” Carpenter said.

The board also discussed the potential for a newly constructed building to house county employees. Brock has been a vocal advocate of researching the costs associated with a new building to compare with costs to repair the annex building.

“In the context I have always brought that up in is before we drop multi-million dollars in an old building, I want to know the cost on a new building and what you get with that,” Brock said. “There are a lot of advantages to having a new building. I just maintained that I want to have that number there if we’re going to stretch this out over a few years and end up with $2 to $3 million in that building over there.”

Carpenter said he is opposed to new construction if the cost for the building is at $4.5 million, an estimate given by Shive-Hattery for $300 a square foot on a 15,000 square foot building. He said he thought that estimate is low, given the current demand for building products due to natural disasters around the country and he doesn’t want a building at that cost “on the back of taxpayers of Jasper County.”

“I also think building a 15,000 square foot building, it wouldn’t be big enough for the future,” Carpenter said. “So you’re building a 20,000 square foot building to accommodate future expansion so you are looking at $6 million and I don’t want to stick this on the back of the taxpayers, I don’t agree with it.”

Brock asked if Carpenter was prepared to spend upwards of $3 million on an old building to which he replied the county would not be putting that amount of money into the building.

The potential lease of the building at 114. W. Fourth St. S. is scheduled to go before the board again at its Tuesday meeting.

Contact Jamee A. Pierson at 641-792-3121 ext. 6534 or

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