The Stark County commissioners held budget hearings in November to discuss how much to fund the operations of agencies. This month the commissioners are expected to decide which of the county's capital projects will get funding and how much to fund them.
CANTON Most households have a list of items that need to be addressed to protect their assets from seriously deteriorating.
People may need to replace the roof on their house or furnace. Their vehicle may be on its last miles and need to be replaced. Some needs have to be addressed now and others may have to wait.
The Stark County government is in a similar situation, as the county commissioners expect to vote on a capital budget on Feb. 28.
The most pressing priority is the roof of the historic Stark County Courthouse. The cost is estimated at $500,000.
"Just about anytime, there's a heavy rain, there are different areas of leakage ... it seeps through," said Stark County Court Administrator Dwaine Hemphill. "Every time there's a big storm, we kind of hold our breath when we come into the building in the morning to see what's damaged."
"The roof, it must be done (this year)," said Stark County Administrator Brant Luther.
Officials believe the roof has not been entirely replaced since the courthouse's 1995 renovation.
But the commissioners also are looking at how much to fund the Stark County Sheriff Office's request for money to update its computer network at a cost of $180,000, replacing its jail communication control system for $95,000 and installing a records management system for at least $500,000, in addition to a long wish list of items.
Stark County Chief Deputy John Oliver said his office wants to install a backup network because in the past the sheriff's network with AT&T has gone down, cutting off deputies' access to criminal records information and warrants information.
When looking at other county facilities, the commissioners are looking at the county office building's elevators, which Luther says are safe, but in need of $850,000 in upgrades because they've become more difficult to maintain and when an elevator goes down, the repairs take longer.
Luther indicated it's unlikely all the work on the elevator could be done this year due to the funding situation. But the county could pay for an architect to assess the elevators and come up with a more specific estimate.
The county office building's rusting garage heater, which prevents the pipes in the building's basement from freezing and bursting, is also in need of replacement at an estimated cost of $100,000. The building's roof needs to be addressed at some point, which would cost an estimated $500,000. The Stark County Engineer's office in Perry Township is requesting a $225,000 replacement of its heating, ventilation and air conditioning unit. Also on the to-do list is painting the ceiling of the lobby of the Frank T. Bow Building and replacing carpets after a firm performed restoration work on its historic murals last year with funding from private donations. The estimated cost is $100,000.
The Stark County IT center, used to pay employees, issue checks and maintain payroll records among other tasks, is asking for funds to replace its firewall at a cost of $120,000 to deter hackers and $50,000 in physical security measures to guard against intruders and a whole slew of hardware and software upgrades, which would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The requests total nearly $10 million. Without including any money to fund the digging of ditches to address flooding.
But the commissioners haven't decided yet how much to spend on capital projects this year. They're considering a number between $3.5 million and $6 million, to allow for enough of a reserve in case of unanticipated expenses. Chris Nichols, the county's director of management and budget, cited that range during the commissioners' hearing on Feb. 5 to discuss the largest requests, which come from the Sheriff's Office, the facilities department, the data/IT department and the telecommunications department.
"Obviously it's a square peg into a round hole," Nichols said, referring to the difference between the requests and how much the county can reasonably allocate.
Starting for the 2017 budget year, the commissioners had committed to spending only money leftover from the prior budget year on capital projects. That's because it's one-time money, not recurring revenue, being spent on projects that don't have to be performed on a regular basis. The county had more than a $14 million carryover from 2017 for 2018.
But the commissioners are now considering spending $2.5 million of that on the county's new $12 million radio system and borrowing less money so the bonds it issues to investors this year to finance the radio system meet a certain tax exempt category, resulting in some interest savings yet to be determined as well as lowering annual payments by more than $340,000 over 10 years.
Reach Repository writer Robert Wang at (330) 580-8327 or email@example.com. Twitter: @rwangREP