The Pulaski County Commissioners decided Monday to move ahead with some office relocations, but not without a heated discussion about the county’s facilities. The commissioners voted to temporarily move the Assessor’s Office from the basement of the courthouse upstairs to the commissioners’ current meeting room.
Starting in June, the commissioners, council, plan commission, and BZA meetings will be held at the Pulaski County Highway Garage. Meanwhile, the Surveyor’s Office will move from the basement of the courthouse to the Annex Building, forcing the relocation of the IT Department to an unused room in the Highway Garage.
During the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting, County Council Member Kathi Thompson read a six-minute statement outlining some of her concerns with the county’s facilities plans, as well as several factors she thinks will have to be addressed. “We owe it to the community to choose the right plan, not the least expensive, for ease of access to government programs and for future generations,” she said. “We owe it to the community to present all feasible options, including time estimates and legitimate cost information. We can do this through two or three community meetings, giving interested parties time to review the plans and give comments. The fact is, no matter what we do, we will have to spend millions of dollars.”
One of Thompson’s concerns was the need to provide secure storage facilities for the various offices. A discussion about which offices are technically required to have storage vaults led to a heated exchange between Commissioner Kenny Becker and Council Member Brian Young.
“You know, I’m going to speak,” Young said. “I’m sorry. This is ridiculous. Our county deserves better than this.”
“You do not run this, here,” Becker interjected. “This is supposed to be the commissioners.”
“Neither do you, sir, because you sit there and you complain,” Young replied. “You bicker. You say this was thrown on you. You were county highway superintendent when the ADA was passed. Did you make it ADA accessible out there?” Sheriff Jeff Richwine eventually ordered Young to stop interrupting the commissioners’ discussion with Thompson.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Jerry Locke disputed the idea that addressing the various issues would have to cost millions of dollars, and Commissioner Becker felt the county should wait for Indiana Landmarks to finish its plan before deciding what to do next. “I talk to a lot of farmers,” Becker said. “I’m a farmer myself. I don’t want my taxes going up. I pay almost $8,000 a year. I don’t want to pass that onto my kids or my grandkids. I want them to say here in Pulaski County, and we don’t have the youth here anymore. They’re all leaving.”
Another argument erupted when Council Member Young asked the commissioners how much money they’ve spent out of the Cumulative Capital Development Fund over the past two years on courthouse maintenance. They didn’t give a direct answer, but Commissioner Locke said the board isn’t going to throw money at a building when they don’t know what’s going to happen.
“Why would we spend money if we don’t know what’s going to take place in the near future?” Locke asked. “Do you run your family finances like that? I don’t.”
Young replied, “If your house has a hole in the roof, do you fix the roof, or do you move to a new house?”
“You fix the roof,” Commissioner Becker said. “It’s been 35 years, and they ain’t done nothing here.”
“Actually, the roof was repaired in the last 10 years,” Young replied. “That’s a fact. You can look it up.”
In a Facebook post Monday, county officials said they’ve provided a number of building plans and other documents to Indiana Landmarks, to assist with the planning process. Anyone with “relevant, evidence-based input regarding this project” is asked to send it to Community Development Commission Executive Director Nathan Origer, who’s serving as the county’s liaison to Indiana Landmarks, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Facebook post says a conference call between Indiana Landmarks and architectural firm Rowland Design is tentatively scheduled for this week, followed by a meeting with them, Origer, and a couple elected officials. After that, they’ll begin reaching out to other courthouse users, the county council and commissioners, and the general public.