County budget panel recommends building new dispatch facility

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FARMINGTON — The county Budget Committee recommended Tuesday to commissioners that a 30- by 60-foot new building be built to house the Franklin County Communications Center.

Members of the Budget Committee and others toured the current facility, which also houses the Sheriff’s Department, and the jail last week, Budget Committee Chairman John Calloway of Avon said.

“I think we came to the conclusion that would be a logical place to build a facility for the communications center,” Calloway said. “Exact location, we didn’t do that.”

The county owns about 14 acres in the Fairbanks section of town where those facilities are located.

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Currently dispatchers share space with deputies.

The new building would be a permanent facility, Calloway said.

Voters overwhelmingly rejected a $4.6 million bond in November 2010 that would have improved space, security and environment for county facilities.

Commissioners are still working on solutions to the problems and have included money in the proposed $5.25 million, 2011-12 budget to have the District Attorney’s Office move to rental space and out of the courthouse basement.

The Budget Committee nixed a proposal in April that would have moved most of the courthouse operations to a new facility that came with a $150,000 a year price tag.

The committee’s proposal to build a stand-alone building for dispatchers would leave the jail available for a prerelease program or to return the jail to its former use as a full-time jail. The county pays $1.6 million to the state to have a 72-hour holding facility after the state took over running the county jails in 2009.

One of the conclusions that those touring the jail came to last week is if they started breaking up the jail, they would never get it back, Commissioner Clyde Barker of Strong said.

It would be economically more feasible to build a new building, Calloway said.

“It needs to be something big enough so it can be altered, so we don’t have to keep coming back and building a new building,” Calloway said. “Let’s do it once and get it done.”

The idea is to develop a plan that would fly with the people, he said.

The site already has drainage and septic systems that can be hooked on to, Calloway said.

“It would be a stand-alone building unless it does not make sense to be a stand-alone building,” he said.

Budget Committee members suggested that commissioners get a second opinion, and have another architecture firm and contractors look over the conceptual plan to see what they think it would cost.

Smith Reuter Lull Architects of Lewiston has worked with the county for more than two years on building projects. Stephanie Lull gave a high-ball estimate of what it would cost to build a new building earlier this month at about $725,000.

County Clerk Julie Magoon said commissioners asked her to give them a worst-case scenario figure and that’s what they received.

The firm will be able to refine the estimate to develop a more accurate number to go to voters, if that is the way commissioners decide to go.

“It might be better if you cut (the cost) in half,” Budget Committee member Terry Brann of Wilton said.

In the proposed budget for next year, the only cost that needs to be in there is money to put the proposal to referendum, Commissioner Gary McGrane of Jay said.

“We may go out to referendum, we may not,” he said.

If a referendum is held, it would need to be done during a statewide election, Magoon said. The next one is in November.

The Budget Committee plans to hold a public hearing on the $5.25 million budget at 6 p.m. Monday, June 6, at the courthouse.

The committee does not plan to make a decision after the hearing but will reconvene at another time to consider adding in $15,000 to bring the courthouse into compliance with the state fire inspector’s findings, add referendum costs and any other changes they deem necessary.

dperry@sunjournal.com

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