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Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014

County may consider shopping center as courts site

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bedford County Financial Management Committee, which was asked to investigate the possibility of the county buying the Regions Bank building on the square for use as additional courtroom space, also wants to look into the possibility of buying the site of Big Springs Shopping Center on Lane Parkway.

Last week, the county commission's courthouse and county property committee asked the finance committee to investigate purchase of the bank building.

Multiple issues

Late last year, local fire department officials said there was "dangerous overcrowding" of existing courtroom facilities, prompting an evaluation of how many people can safely occupy court chambers.

There have also been concerns about security due to the numerous entrances to the courthouse.

Proposals to build a new combined jail and justice center, which would also address overcrowding at the county jail, have met resistance from downtown merchants who say moving the court system would be a devastating blow to the square.

Dealing with costs

Last week, courthouse committee member Linda Yockey said the asking price for the bank building is $600,000, although the county might be able to negotiate with the bank.

When such a project was discussed in 2009, the bank wanted to sell the entire building but then lease the first floor and the drive-through branch back from the new owners.

If that's still the bank's intent, some committee members wondered whether the presence of prisoners going to and from court appearances would be a barrier to the sale.

County finance director Robert Daniel said that the county's construction consultant, Bud Melson, can evaluate the renovation costs for the building.

Judges included

County Mayor Eugene Ray said that the county needs to closely involve local judges in the discussion.

"We need to make sure the judges want the building," said Ray. Committee member Joe Tillett asked Ray to contact the judges.

Committee member J.D. "Bo" Wilson then said that the Big Springs Shopping Center, across Lane Parkway from the current jail and sheriff's office, is again up for sale.

Tillett said that the Big Springs site would be ideal if the county got to the point of building a comprehensive criminal justice center. The committee asked Ray to research the asking price for the site.

Capital outlay

The committee once again discussed the list of capital outlay projects mentioned last month. Last month, the committee said that roof repair projects should take precedence, in order to prevent further damage to those buildings. Daniel said roof projects have been let to bid but the bids have not been opened yet.

The roofs in need of repair include the county-owned building housing Tennessee Rehabilitation Center; the county workhouse; Bedford County Emergency Management Agency; and the house-like structure on Spring Street which houses the administrative offices for the county jail.

Several other county buildings are in need of some sort of building repair, including Bedford County Animal Control, Bedford County Fire Department, Bedford County Business Complex, Eakin Elementary School and Bedford County Jail.

Fuel system

The county also wants to place fuel tanks and a new fleet management system which it believes will save on fuel costs. Daniel said that the roof projects would cost $261,000, and that combined with a cost of $40,000 for the fuel tank pads would be a combined project of $300,000.

The total estimated cost of the capital outlay projects presented last month was about $500,000.

Daniel said he's been soliciting bids from architects for various county projects. He said he has received about 30 responses but hasn't yet had a chance to go through and evaluate them.

Refinancing

The committee recommended and placed on the county commission's agenda a proposal to refinance $2.7 million in county bond debt as a capital outlay note. The county would still have the same payment amount but the interest rate would drop, presumably leading to a quicker payoff. The cost for the refinancing would be $3,000 in bank fees, either from a local bank or the Tennessee County Services Association revolving loan fund, plus about $5,000 in attorneys' fees.

Other business

*The committee approved paying $1,282 towards the cost of repairs to the fire / ambulance hall in Flat Creek. A driver drove her vehicle into the building. The county's insurance company will pay $8,568 towards the $9,850 cost of repair, leaving the rest as the county's responsibility. The insurance company may pursue payment from the driver.

*The committee recommended a request from the City of Shelbyville that city and county share the cost of an advertisement in the Chamber of Commerce promotional magazine.

*The committee discussed the increasing usage, and therefore cost, of psychological evaluations for jail prisoners, a cost over which the county has little control.

*County revenues continued their upward trend compared to the previous year, although sales tax revenues for February (representing retail sales in December) were only $778 higher than the previous year, far less of a year-to-year increase than in previous months.

*Unusually high utility costs at the sheriff's office were discussed. Further research will be done to determine whether the increase is due to electric use or water/sewer use.