Bond issue moves ahead

GREENFIELD — Hancock County Commissioners took action Tuesday to begin the process of borrowing money to cover the cost of repairs and upgrades to several county buildings.

The commissioners voted Tuesday to adopt a resolution that states the county will seek a bond for almost $2 million to pay for immediate maintenance needs. An estimated $1.4 million would be spent at the jail, and $519,000 would be divided among other county buildings.

The loan proposal will go to the county council for further consideration. A formal public hearing will be conducted before the council votes on the bond, county attorney Ray Richardson said.

Funds likely would appear in the county’s bank account no sooner than November if the resolution is approved, he added.

Discussions about taking out a loan began while developing the county’s 2016 budget. County leaders identified projects they said need to be addressed but exceeded the funds available to the county for maintenance, commissioner Brad Armstrong said.

A tentative list of repairs has been written. Here’s a look at the estimated cost of repairs for each building:

Hancock County Jail: $1,480,000

Hancock County Courthouse: $88,000

Hancock County Courthouse Annex: $82,000

Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office: $115,000

Memorial Building: $150,000

Hancock County Community Corrections: $21,000

Hancock County Emergency Operations Center: $3,000

Hancock County Highway Department: $40,000

Hancock County Purdue Extension: $20,000

The bond already has been met with some resistance by residents who believe officials should use their reserve funds before pursuing a loan.

“I think you can do what you’re trying to do without a bond issue,” Greenfield resident George Langston said. “Bonding should be set aside for high-dollar items or if some disaster happens. But when we just willy-nilly have a bond for the sake of having a bond, it doesn’t make sense.”

But officials said they believe a loan is the best way to pay for specific needs with minimal impact to residents and county savings, Armstrong said.

County Auditor Robin Lowder said public officials have worked hard to build up the county’s savings accounts to a safe operating level and most county leaders aren’t ready to see those funds depleted. She explained at Tuesday’s meeting that the county starts each year with a $36 million budget and ends each year with about $14 million.

“That really is not that much money, and we’ve worked hard to get to this cash balance,” Lowder said. “As an individual, would you spend yourself down to almost nothing? We have to protect this county.”

Armstrong also said the county should protect its cash reserves.

“There is money in the bank, (but) I look at rainy-day money as being for emergency expenses not as a cash balance,” Armstrong added. “I guess, technically, a county could go bankrupt, but that’s not something I’m interested in doing. I’m interested in managing this county so that we will never be in that position.”

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.