Commission discusses extra jail footage, budget

Law Enforcement Center

After a recent, public meeting raised questions concerning the law enforcement center project and the reason for added square footage, the commission met with representatives from the Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Director Will Wallis Tuesday to clarify the issue.

3-8 Commission

During the meeting last Thursday, architect Larry Goldberg said the reason for the added 2,000 square feet to the design was to make room for the Emergency Operations Center to be located onsite. County commissioners said they had not been informed of that detail.

Wallis explained Tuesday that the area is not the county’s EOC, which is located in the basement of the courthouse, but is an alternate location that could be used as a headquarters during an emergency or disaster. It will, however, serve as the Continuity of Operations (COOP) location, a national effort that ensures that individual departments and agencies continue to perform their services in any emergency.

Wallis and Sheriff Bill Martin both emphasized that this multi-purpose area—which will also be used for training and administrative purposes—has been in the jail plan since it was initiated, so does not account for the addition to the design.

Though Wallis said he hopes the area would never have to be used as an EOC, he said it is important to plan ahead and have an area large enough with sufficient resources for communication.

Martin said in the meantime it would still be put to use such as for in-service training that is required annually, allowing deputies to complete the training locally instead of travelling.

But while Wallis said they would like to stick to their original plan of including the multi-purpose area, he said if the budget does not allow it than, “so be it.”

Commission chairman Barbara Albright said she wanted to make sure voters know they are getting what they voted for in the project.

“We’re trying to be as open and transparent as possible on the project,” Albright said.

Budget

The commissioners also wrapped up the 2015 budget with Certified Public Accountant Terry Sercer, who explained their funds will likely be tight entering the new fiscal year, with little left over for reserves.

However, Sercer said most of the county departments came in below budget for the 2015 fiscal year, leaving enough for the carryover the commission had already budgeted for in 2016, allowing them to not start the year off in the negative.

Sercer said the audit on the county will be complete by late April or early May, and encouraged the commissioners to begin looking at the next annual budget right away so they can plan ahead for any expected expenditures.

The commissioners said they do face an upcoming expense in fiscal year 2017 because of a new law requiring the county provide security. With the budget so tight, the county could face a decision to raise taxes or adjust the cost of living.

County treasurer Rhonda Dunn also requested that reserves be put in place for the appraiser’s and election funds in preparation for upcoming expenses to purchase new equipment and a vehicle.

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