|Corrigan Times - Local News
Copyright 2013 - Polk County Publishing Company
Commissioners approve new elevator for courthouse
BY GREG PEAK
LIVINGSTON – In hopes of getting additional state funds for the project, Polk County commissioners have committed to borrowing more than $700,000 to replace the county courthouse's elevator. During a special meeting held Friday, October 18, the commissioners approved a "very reluctant" recommendation from County Judge John Thompson to move forward with a plan to replace the existing elevator with a new one to be built within the courthouse. The current elevator was added onto the outside of the courthouse in 1972, using used equipment. Parts for the aging elevator are no longer being made and it is becoming increasingly diffi cult to make repairs. It was noted the elevator is currently not in compliance with state regulations but the county has been allowed to keep it in operation because commissioners are in the process of trying to replace it. "When we went into this project, we didn't think the cost would be as high as it has become," Thompson said, adding the current estimate has risen to over $1 million. Initially, the Texas Historical Commission (THC) had agreed to give the county an emergency grant of a little over $200,000 from its courthouse preservation funds to help with the project. When the county learned the cost would top $1 million, Thompson said he asked THC to fund half of the cost but was told that only another $138,000 was available for a total of about $338,000. While he was not happy with the notion of having to borrow so much money, the alternative was even less attractive, he told the commissioners. If the elevator is not replaced, it will have to be repaired because without a working elevator, the county would not be in compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. "If that happens we might as well shut the courthouse down," he said. Three years ago, the county received an estimate of $100,000 to repair just the elevator's shaft but no one knows how much more it will cost to repair or replace the controls and other equipment, provided they could find salvaged parts. "If we do decide to repair the elevator, were still going to be left with an old elevator that will only last for a few more years," he said. Thompson added the county has already spent about $86,000 to obtain architectural plans and to have the courthouse's structure analyzed to determine if the building could support an internal elevator. The judge noted that the county hopes to one day obtain a THC grant to restore and remodel the entire courthouse but said the state agency is not awarding such grants at this time. "The legislature didn't provide as much funding for the courthouse preservation program as they have in the past. I'm told that all the historical commission is funding right now are emergency grants," he said. In the vote to move forward with replacing the elevator, Pct. 1 Commissioner Bob Willis voted "no" with Thompson, Pct. 2 Commissioner Ronnie Vincent and Pct. 3 Commissioner Milt Purvis voting "yes." Pct. 4 Commissioner Tommy Overstreet was unable to attend the meeting. Electronic ticket writers In other business during the meeting, commissioners voted to cancel the maintenance contracts on the electronic ticket writers purchased by the county's justices of the peace and issued to sheriff's department patrol deputies. They also voted to declare the ticket writers as surplus equipment and offer them for sale to other governmental entities. Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace Darrell Longino recommended the action because income being generated by the electronic devices is not enough to justify the expense involved in maintaining the contracts. The devices are used by law enforcement officers to electronically scan information on drivers licenses and to generate a ticket for various traffic offenses. The information is automatically uploaded to the Texas Department of Public Safety computer in Austin and then downloaded nightly to the four precinct justices of the peace. Longino said this save time in the JP offices because the clerks did not have to enter the information into their computer records. It all came pre-packaged from the DPS computer. Thompson asked if the county could legally offer the ticket writers only to law enforcement agencies in Polk County, District Attorney Lee Hon said he thought it would be acceptable but would have to verify it. During the meeting, commissioners also voted to seek bids on the construction of a county animal shelter. The deadline for submitting a bid was set for 5 p.m. Nov. 20 with the commissioners schedule to review them at their Nov. 26 meeting.