Officials exploring ways to finance replacement of building’s system


County officials believe they have come up with a plan to fund an $800,000 project to replace the heating, air conditioning and ventilation system at the 16-year-old jail without any increase in property taxes.

Through the past decade, the Jackson County Council has funded capital project needs, such as ambulances, police cars, computer software and hardware, through three-year general obligation bond issues.

As they began preparing to issue bonds for a fourth time late this past year, Sheriff Michael Carothers brought up the need to replace the HVAC system at the sheriff’s department building in Brownstown.

The system is worn out, has been repaired several times over the past few years and is very inefficient, Carothers said.

“We’ve been ‘Band-Aid’-ing it for years,” Carothers said.

Besides the jail, the 45,850- square-foot building at 150 E. State Road 250 also houses offices for the sheriff’s department, a dispatch center and the Jackson County Juvenile Detention Center.

Carothers said the project would see the present heating and cooling units on top of the building replaced with a boiler system similar to the one installed in the courthouse when it was renovated about a dozen years ago. A new system would be more efficient, he said.

Jail Commander Charlie Murphy, who also is president of the county council, said taking the $800,000 needed for the jail project out of the new bond issue wouldn’t leave much for other capital needs.

To avoid the possibility of a public referendum, previous bond issues have been held to less than $2 million, Murphy said.

He said the council committee putting together the new bond issue has already whittled $500,000 in capital requests from other elected officials and department heads to get the cost to $1.6 million. That’s without the $800,000 jail project.

The committee consists of council members Bridey Jacobi and Becky Schepman along with financial consultant Branden Robbins with Reedy Financial Group in Seymour.

During a recent council meeting, Robbins suggested the council pursue two bond issues — a Series A and a Series B — the first to cover other requests, and the second to cover the jail HVAC project. At that time, Robbins said he was working with bond counsel to determine if the council can issue two bonds.

Murphy said earlier this week bond counsel said it would be OK to pursue separate bond issues.

The Series A bond would cover the $1.6 million in requests. That bond issue would be for three years. The Series B would cover the cost of the jail project and be spread out over six years instead of three.

Robbins said spreading the cost to taxpayers for the HVAC project over a longer period would help keep the tax rate stable.

Anticipated increases in net assessed valuation in the next several years could actually help lower that rate, Robbins said.

This past year, the rate to repay the 2013 bond issue of nearly $1.98 million was 0.0343 cents per $100 assessed valuation.

A property owner with a home with an assessed valuation of $100,000 would have to pay $34.30 toward repaying the bonds. In 2014, that rate was 0.0413, requiring property owners to pay $41.30 to repay the bond issue.

Councilman Brian Thompson said Tuesday the overall goal is to get the work done without increasing the tax rate.

“It’s a balancing act,” Thomp-son said.

Carothers said Harrell-Fish Inc. of Bedford is the only contractor who has expressed a willingness to tackle the project.

Besides installing two gas-fired boilers to cover the entire building, duct work will have to be installed, he said.

The $800,000 cost is just an estimate, and the hope is the project might cost less than that amount, Carothers said.

There is no timeline in place at this time, he said.

“I’d like to do it in decent weather, and we’re hoping to get it done before the fall,” he said.

When the county started using bond issues nearly a decade ago, it was an effort to separate capital expenses from operating expenses, Thompson said. Both are financed through property taxes.

“It makes it easier to manage the budget,” he said.

Once the jail HVAC system is paid off, Thompson said the council would probably look at similar bond issues to pay for the replacement of similar systems at the courthouse, Jackson Superior Court I in Seymour and the courthouse annex, which houses Jackson Superior Court II, in Brownstown.

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