As discussions about the future of the Pulaski County Courthouse continue, health concerns have some county departments asking to have their offices moved. During Monday’s commissioners meeting, Assessor Holly VanDerAa said she’s had five employees get cancer after working in her basement office, and one of them passed away a few weeks ago.
“I’m asking to be moved out of the basement,” she said. “I have no opinion as to where you move me. I would just like to be out of the basement for the health of my employees and myself.”
Commissioner Jerry Locke promised that the assessor’s and surveyor’s offices will be relocated out of the basement as soon as arrangements can be made. “We as commissioners and the council, we should try to provide a decent wage, a decent benefit package, and a healthy and secure work environment,” he said. “If we don’t supply them three things, none of us are doing our job. And I know you and I have had several conversations. You will be moved.”
This comes amid an ongoing discussion about how to address various issues at the county’s facilities. Last December, a preliminary plan was unveiled that involved tearing down the 1895 courthouse and adding onto the Justice Center. Last week, Commissioner Locke said a “plan B” was in the works that would not involve the new addition.
He clarified Monday that it was simply his own plan, and he hadn’t discussed it with the other two commissioners yet. “I hate using the word, ‘I’ or ‘me’ or ‘my,'” Locke explained. “I said, ‘We had a plan.’ We work as a team. This plan, a week from tonight, it’s my plan, and I assume Mike [McClure] and I assume Kenny [Becker have] got a plan of their own. I don’t know. But I wanted to clarify that because there’s so much fake Facebook news out there.”
In any case, Commissioner Mike McClure felt the county is currently falling short of its responsibility to provide safe, clean, and user-friendly facilities. “What it’s going to take to do it, we don’t need to build a new building, but I think we slowly need to close this building down,” McClure said.
Commissioner Locke is expected to present his “plan B” during a special joint council and commissioners meeting next week.