Pulaski County intends to hold-off funding a proposed courthouse renovation until some new perspective can be gained.
During a joint session of the County Commissioners and County Council, the project – which has been in the planning stages for the past three years – was discussed with the intent of providing more substantive direction.
County Maintenance Supervisor Jeff Johnston says its about more than an expansion.
“It’s about taking a building that we’ve had for 100 years and making it last another 100,” says Johnston. “It’s about safety, it’s about security, courtroom and public safety. Moreover, it’s about ADA compliance.”
Since October, designs for upgrades to the county facilities have been considered under a current proposal with a few alternatives. Several public hearings have been held to inform the public about the proposal. Although they vary depending on the proposal, the cost to the county and potentially to taxpayers has been a major point of concern for those attending the meetings.
Concerns were raised again on Monday night as members of the public largely supported making improvements to bring the county into compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. Renovating the existing building or simply constructing a new county building off-site were also proposed by members of the public.
Commissioner Larry Brady says not being in compliance with the ADA may have ramifications, using a currently disabled family member as an example.
“She’s going to get the courtesy interview, and she may be the best damn qualified candidate but that’s all she’s going to do is get that courtesy interview,” says Brady. “Because the employer will know that she can’t work here and she can’t guarantee that she’s going to get up to the second floor, or the third floor.”
The Commissioners recommended moving forward with the current proposal of making repairs to the current courthouse, renovating the grounds, and constructing a new building. That’s a total cost of $8.58-million after paying for the financing. Bud Krohn, Jr. voted against the recommendation.
After some jeering by members of the audience, it was up to the county council to consider funding the project. Council President Jay Sullivan says the businesses will be the ones bearing the cost.
“The Council, yeah we’re trying to cut corners,” says Sullivan. “We’re trying to help, we’re trying to listen to everybody, but it doesn’t seem like everybody else is doing their fair share in the county either. When I heard that West Central is in the same boat as us, it’s like: my goodness, talk about keep spending money.”
The County Council voted against funding the project for the time being, citing new members of both bodies that will be seated in January.
Apart from some planning efforts, the project will likely be at a standstill until that time.