JEFFERSON — By a vote of 19-9 Tuesday evening, the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution that will allow the county to purchase the former site of Countryside Home for use as the new headquarters of its highway department.
Located on Jefferson’s southwest side, the site has been under consideration by the county for purchase and with supervisors Al Counsell, Donald Reese, Greg Torres, Ed Morse, Pam Rogers, Jim Mode, John Kannard, George Jaeckel and Carlton Zentner dissenting, the county is scheduled to make the acquisition at an initial cost of $200,000.
The highway department budget contains approximately $500,000 for facility design expenses for a new highway headquarters. A total of $200,000 of these funds will be used for this purchase according to county officials. It is anticipated that demolition on the site could cost at least $720,000 to $880,000.
Prior to the vote, there was minimal discussion on the matter, which has been controversial at all levels of county government and among members of the public.
Mode said he wanted to stress his concern that it is his belief it could cost the county more than $1 million just to prepare the site for construction of a highway facility. He said the county should continue to consider saving this money and utilizing a county-owned site located in Jefferson to the northeast of the former Countryside site.
Zentner said the county should consider leaving the old Countryside Home standing alongside what would be its highway facility that would be reduced in size.
Also Tuesday, the board received a formal presentation on the Jefferson County 2013 proposed budget from its county administrator, Gary Petre.
Petre said the 2013 recommended budget results in a countywide property tax rate of $4.14 per $1,000 of equalized valuation. This is a 20 cent, or 5.1 percent, increase over the 2012 adopted tax rate of $3.94.
The 2013 recommended budget, as amended recently by the finance committee, brings with it a total property tax levy of $26,828,028 and this is a $120,185, or 0.45 percent, increase from the 2012 budget.
“This tax levy increase meets the state-imposed tax levy limitations,” Petre said.
According to Petre, the 2013 proposed budget includes $5.6 million for health insurance premium costs and $2.3 million for WRS pension contribution costs as the county’s share of these employee benefits. These amounts are an increase of $360,000 and $230,000 respectively over the 2012 adopted budget.
He said the 2013 budget uses $534,415 of available fund balance toward the costs of departmental capital projects. Major items include $165,000 for replacement of the sheriff’s department’s computer server, $40,000 for fiber cable connection to the county fair park, $121,600 for parks department equipment and improvements, $156,000 for replacement of MIS computer and duplicating equipment and $50,000 for replacement of a courthouse HVAC unit.
Petre said the 2013 budget includes $54,584 for repayment of debt and the county’s tax levy support for the fair park amounts to $187,956. The highway department’s budget includes $4.2 million of property tax levy for highway road construction and projects in 2013.
Following his presentation, Petre instructed supervisors to submit any amendments they would like considered. The deadline for submission of these is noon on Oct. 25. A public hearing on the budget is set for Oct. 23. The finance committee will take from Oct. 25 to Nov. 1 to review the amendments. On Nov. 2, the panel will come up with an overall recommendation on changes to the budget as a result of supervisors’ amendments and Nov. 13 the board meets to adopt the final 2013 document.
During the relatively brief session for October, The board approved a reduction in speed limit on County Trunk Highway J between the city of Jefferson and Highway 89, and denied a dog damage claim from Kari Tinus.