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County renovation projects likely won't be tied to sales tax

2/21/2013

By RANDY GONZALES

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

It is unlikely renovation projects at 601 Main and 718 Main will be included in a proposed 0.5-percent county sales tax, according to Ellis County Administrator Greg Sund.

The Public Building Commission gave the authority last month to issue bonds not to exceed $14.5 million for construction of an EMS/rural fire building, expansion and renovation to the county jail, law enforcement center and courthouse, as well as renovations to buildings at 718 Main and 601 Main.

A county sales tax to pay for the projects would be subject to voter consideration in an election either this spring or summer. Now, it appears the projects at 601 Main and 718 Main won't go before the voters as part of the proposed sales tax.

"They're considerably smaller projects," Sund said. "They just complicate the (sales tax) question.

"It's far easier to focus on the two major projects, because those are the ones that are going to use up by far the majority of the money anyway."

Sund said the county already owns the property at 601 Main and 718 Main, adding "it wouldn't make sense to include them in the sales tax, because they are smaller, budget-able projects."

The county purchased the Commerce Bank building at 718 Main in order to move offices there from the courthouse. The bank building will need to be renovated, as will the health department at 601 Main.

The cost of renovations at 718 Main and 601 Main were estimated at $1 million when the Public Building Commission authorized the issuance of bonds.

If 601 Main and 718 Main were part of the sales tax, but voters rejected it, the county could be in the position of buying a building but not being able to use it.

"What would happen if we had to regroup, and we had the building two years and couldn't do anything with it," Sund said. "You do have to think of those contingencies ahead of time, and that is the discussion we've had. If we don't take care of the building, it becomes a liability rather than an asset."

Instead of paying for the renovations at 601 Main and 718 Main through the proposed sales tax, the projects would be in the county's budget.

"These are considerably smaller projects that we can easily have a bond issue ... and pay for it in a relatively small annual amount of money, and have the improvement over time," Sund said. " If we can do them through a bond issue, then we would do them at the same time. If we can't, we might stage them, so we get one paid off, then move to the other one."

Sund said the renovations at the Commerce Bank building would come first. The county's environmental and planning/zoning departments are at 601 Main but would move to 718 Main. Once Commerce Bank is completed, those offices can be relocated and renovations could start at 601 Main.

"They may both be funded through the same bond issue, but no matter what we do, we have to stage the projects," Sund said. "Do one, then the other."