Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

October 29, 2012

County turns to building project

By Bob Belcher
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — The county’s financial share of the restoration of the Navarro County Courthouse can be financed without any impact to the existing tax debt rate.

That’s the word from a financial advisor speaking to the Navarro County Commissioners Court on Monday.

Mike Byrd of First Southwest told commissioners that financing of as much as $9.5 million dollars could be arranged for the county with no impact on the current debt tax rate of two cents per $100 valuation. That’s the same rate the county has had for debt service since the construction of the Navarro County Justice Center in 1986.

The restoration project, estimated to cost about $9.5 million, will be partially funded by the State of Texas. The county received a $4.5 million grant for the restoration, and now faces finding a way to pay for the balance of the work, plus the costs of temporarily relocating courthouse operations for up to three years while the work is done.

Also an unknown — whether or not an annex building would be required after the courthouse work is done — with several office areas currently in use tentatively being eliminated in the historic restoration. Commissioners asked the county’s architects to revisit their plans for the remodel, trying to fit more people into the remaining space in the building. That work was authorized by commissioners on Monday, at a cost not expected to exceed $5,000.

Commissioners also heard about logistics planning for the move, and a possible upgrade of the county phone system as a part of the work. An upgrade to a VoIP, or “voice over Internet protocol” system, would give the county more flexibility in the system, replace an out-dated digital system now in use, and save the county money on monthly phone costs, said Doug McIlvaine of Netcom. Several options for logistics planning and execution of the move out of the courthouse and back in after the restoration were also presented by Sherry Green and Alan Spinner of Technology Team, LLC.

“You have a lot of things that have to take place here,” Spinner told commissioners, urging them to go forward with an assessment of the project.

No action was taken on the presentations, other than approving the additional architect’s work.

Commissioner Dick Martin asked that the naming of a financial advisor for the project be delayed until the next commissioner’s meeting, saying other vendors had expressed interest in the project.

County Judge H.M. Davenport Jr. repeated  Byrd’s projection that no increase in the county’s debt tax rate is anticipated should the county proceed with the issuance of certificates of obligation for the its share of the restoration costs.

In two other action items, the county approved allowing the firm Intelysis to review ATT records of the county’s telephone service for the purpose of formulating a plan to submit to the county, and also engaged a professional engineer to drill and monitor a well at the old county hospital site and provide a report the TCEQ is requiring of the county. The work is expected to cost about $3,700. The item was approved with the stipulation that District Attorney R. Lowell Thompson review the contract first.

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Bob Belcher may be reached by email at belcher@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “Soundoff” on this story? Email: soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com