Although nearly 20 people attended a special Washington County Board of Supervisors public hearing on creating an urban renewal area Tuesday evening, only two questions were asked regarding the proposed communications center that will be put into the area.
During the meeting, the supervisors voted 4-1 to proceed with the urban renewal area, with Abe Miller casting the sole “nay” vote, saying he believed the public should have been given the chance to vote on the issue. The urban renewal area is being formed as a way for the supervisors to begin constructing a $3.5 million communications center without having a bond referendum. The supervisors also voted unanimously to set a public hearing to issue bonds for the building for Tuesday, Oct. 30, at 9 a.m.
Once the bonds are sold, the county will receive the funds by December with the intent of constructing the building next year. Supervisor Jack Seward Jr. explained the building needs to be constructed before December 2019, which is when the new radio system the supervisors have previously ordered will arrive. The radios were ordered before the building being constructed so the county would receive about $500,000 in rebates.
After the hearing was set, county attorney John Gish said that for the public to force a vote on the bonding, petitions for an election would have to be turned in by Oct. 29. He said 1,109 signatures would be needed for a vote on the issue.
“If a petition is turned in on Oct. 30, I recommend the supervisors not accept it,” he said.
During the meeting, the supervisors also discussed whether $3.5 million would be enough to ensure the communications building would be constructed. Supervisor Richard Young asked if the supervisors should bond for $4 million. Architects who are designing the building said the estimate is between $350 and $450 per square foot and that $3.5 million would be enough to complete the project.
While there are drawings of the proposed design of the building, blueprints have not been created yet, so bids on construction have not been received.
Miller also asked about the need for an emergency operations center in the building. He said that the one time he had learned the county had used such a center was after a tornado had hit Washington in 1998. The architects explained the center would also be used for such things as training.