Thursday, April 20, 2017 - Updated: 9:35 AMThe months of 2017 are already flying by, and the community has not seen much forward movement with the courthouse renovation project. Now, before anyone reads further, this will not be an editorial meant to bash the board.
There has been a little progress. The county commissioners met with the engineering firm, RQAW after the first of the year, and the commissioners were in agreement they should let RQAW handle the process of bidding the projects for the roof and tuckpointing.
Often times the general public and news media are not privy to the behind the scenes discussions with our county and city leaders. The commissioners met with the engineering firm in January and just a couple of months later the City of Metropolis announced it would assist the county with the renovation process by reimbursing the county up to $150,000 toward the cost of a new roof or tuckpointing. It was great news to report that city and county leaders are working together.
The only curveball with the money from the city is that the city has put a time limit when it should be used. They’ve given the county 90 days to begin the bidding process.
In the meantime, Commission Chair Jerel Childers and Commissioner Jayson Farmer made a presentation to the Massac Memorial Hospital Board. The hospital board is now trying to decide if it will give the county about $125,000 a year for three years.
Basically, the tax money the hospital would receive from the property taxes, would be given back to the county. The hospital board has made no decision yet as to whether they will or will not enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the county.
That creates another problem because the engineering firm has told Farmer it would be much easier and cheaper for the county if they had a large sum of money so that only one general contractor could be hired for the roof, tuckpointing and whatever the county puts together in the project.
As it stands now, the county only has the $150,000 commitment from the city in addition to the fund the county has been contributing to monthly.
Meanwhile, it has been one year since Johnson County, just one county north of us, passed its one percent sales tax increase. In a letter to the editor in the Vienna Times by Johnson County resident and one percent sales tax proponent, Mike McMahan, he writes, “As of February 23, 2017, the county has received $185,862 from additional sales tax. Typically, we receive a monthly check between the 12th and 15th of the month, which is deposited directly into the account, Future Office Complex, established by the Johnson County Treasurer Brent Williams specifically to fund our new county building. Last year we estimated $400,000 a year in revenue. The results so far indicate we are ahead of this income estimate. This October we will have a full year’s worth of data to evaluate. I will provide you another update at that time.”
But here in Massac County, the commissioners tried twice to pass a one percent increase in sales tax, but the vote failed both times, even after a very narrow second defeat. Just recently Massac County Treasurer Dana Angelly presented totals of sales tax revenue her office has received for the months of January, February and March in 2015, 2016 and 2017. In 2015, the total amount received for those three months was $259,477. In 2016, the total was $207,150, and so far this year the total has been $137,247.
Now, had the one percent sale tax increase passed the first time around it is possible this year’s total for the first three months of the year would be a lot higher.
We do believe the commissioners are trying to come up with the funds to renovate the existing courthouse without having to force officeholders and department heads to make employee or budget cuts.
But right now, they only have enough to barely take care of putting on another new roof. They still need to address the mold and asbestos issues, tuckpointing and windows.
The commissioners are trying to have their cake and eat it too. But, if they do not get any more revenue coming in to help with the renovation process, then it is likely there may have to be layoffs, which would definitely impact the services to the county residents. But, like all of us who deal with our personal finances, sometimes you have to do what you have to do. We shall continue to wait, watch and see what happens — meanwhile, the clock is ticking on the 90-day window. Hopefully the commissioners will please take action and stop stalling.