The Stark County commissioners Wednesday approved a 2018 capital budget of $4.24 million, funding replacing the Stark County courthouuse, buying new cruisers for the sheriff's office, upgrading computer equipment and replacing an aging heater in the Stark County garage.
CANTON About $4.24 million was available for capital improvements for buildings such as constructing a new roof for the county courthouse, replacing vehicles and upgrading computer equipment. But the county commissioners received $10.5 million in requests.
The Stark County commissioners Wednesday agreed on a funding plan for this year for the county's capital needs that decided which projects get money now and which projects have to wait until later this year or in later years.
"This was less than half of what was requested. There's still significant capital projects that are still out there," said Chris Nichols, the Stark County Director of Management and Budget, who added that he hopes sales tax and conveyance fee revenue is better than expected later in the year. "My hope is we could do a second pass of capital appropriations the second half of the year to do projects we couldn't address the first half of the year."
Stark County Commissioner Bill Smith said, "Waiting for the money to come before we spend it."
"That's a novel concept," quipped Commissioner Janet Weir Creighton.
Here are some highlights and examples of the items that were funded:
• $500,000 to replace the Stark County Courthouse roof.
• $332,548 in funds leftover from last year so the sheriff can complete projects funded last year. The funds will also cover a new jail communications control system.
•$180,000 to fund a network upgrade for the sheriff's office to seek to prevent network outages that have prevented deputies from accessing criminal background and court case databases plus $20,000 for repair and replacement of security cameras, $10,000 for building maintenance, $50,000 expansion of a dispatch system, $35,000 to consolidate data systems, $200,000 to upgrade the jail's deteriorating plumbing system, $80,000 to repair and restore the jail showers and $80,000 for asphalt repair and paving in the sheriff's parking lot.
• $200,000 for four new sheriff's cruisers.
• $100,000 to renovate the Fifth District Court of Appeals courtroom.
• $170,000 to buy security cameras and an access control system for the legal and title divisions of the Stark County Clerk of Courts office and $13,550 for a microfilm imaging and printing system for that office.
• $20,000 to buy new computers for the Board of Elections and $20,000 to buy electronic pollbooks.
• $340,000 for the IT center to upgrade software licenses and hardware, $120,000 to replace a firewall and $200,000 for storage expansion.
• $150,000 for a new IT Center computer room cooling system, $195,000 to implement software that would allow county employees to access their systems on their mobile phones along with $145,000 to enhance the network and its security.
• $100,000 for a new heater for the Stark County Office Building garage, to prevent a pipe from freezing and bursting and $75,000 in repairs to the adjoining county parking lot.
• $209,000 to build a fiber network line from the courthouse to the Frank T. Bow Building and from the IT Center to the courthouse.
• $40,000 to install software and hardware that would allow an emergency dispatcher to see on a screen the exact location of a 911 call from a county phone.
Projects that got partial funding
• $300,000 for the county's projects to improve drainage and reduce flooding out of $500,000 requested, but another $100,000 was left over from last year.
• $175,000 for the IT center renovation, which is expected to cost $1.67 million.
• $15,000 for the upgrade of the County Office Building's safe but aging elevator, which is estimated to cost $850,000. Nichols said the funds are enough for an architect to determine the specs for the project.
• $20,000 out of $50,000 requested for a jail mobile data system and $10,000 out of $17,500 requested for fleet laptops at the sheriff's office.
Projects denied funding:
• $930,000 for countywide records management system. One for sheriff's office would cost about $400,000 to $500,000. Nichols said the commissioners want to know if using existing hardware or software would reduce the cost.
• $500,000 to replace the County Office Building roof. Nichols said the project could wait another year.
• $225,000 to replace the Stark County Engineer's heat, ventilation and air conditioning system. Nichols said county's facility manager determined the project could wait another year.
• $12,543 for new carpet and painting of the Probate Court's Court Angel and elder care offices. Nichols said it's not clear whether grant funding will continue to fund the probate court program in the long term.
• $35,000 to set up a security front desk at the Board of Elections and $10,000 to upgrade fencing by the board's parking lot. Nichols said the commissioners want to learn more details about the future parking lot.
• $50,000 to renovate the sheriff's investigators' offices.
Nichols said the commissioners are inclined to refuse funding or provide only partial funding for a project for which specifications and costs are not well defined.
"I don't want to tie up funding for a project if we don't have good numbers and know that it's the project cost and know it's ready to go," said Nichols, adding that funding projects that have not been sufficiently developed denies funding to more well defined projects.
Nichols said the county is keeping up on upkeep of its buildings and assets after spending as little as $280,900 on capital needs in 2010 because of the expiration of the county's sales tax after voters refused to renew it following theft of $3 million from the county by a treasurer's employee.
"Due to lack of funding, we weren't able to take care of our infrastructure," said Nichols, who noted that after voters approved a new sales tax, capital spending bounced back to $1.37 million in 2013, $3.58 million in 2014 and $5.46 million in 2015.
In 2016, the county spent $6.04 million on capital. Last year, it was $13.4 million, but if you exclude money advanced for the county's new radio system and the purchase of the Midtown building before bonds were to be sold to cover the costs, the amount was $3.23 million.
Nichols said the commissioners decided to borrow $2.2 million less than expected for the countywide radio system over 10 years to reduce the county's payments by $370,000 a year. That further limited the size of the capital budget. The county would borrow just less than $10 million, allowing the bonds it issues to be tax exempt and more attractive to investors to buy. Officials hope that will reduce the interest costs.
Reach Robert Wang at 330-580-8327
On Twitter: @rwangREP.