There was an hour and a half of discussion by Morrow County Commissioners, other county officials and county residents on Wednesday as they compared advantages of two possible locations for expansion of the Morrow County Transportation Collaborative (MCTC) facility.

The meeting followed several months of research and discussion on the best and most cost effective plan for the MCTC facility.

At the end of the meeting, Morrow County Commissioners approved a motion for MCTC to build a new transportation administrative building at the collaborative’s present County Road 9 site with Commissioner Dick Miller casting a dissenting vote.

At the beginning of the meeting, Don Wake, Director of Job and Family Services presented a chart of estimated costs and savings of building at a new location at Young Avenue on State Route 42 by the Sheriff’s office. He said he preferred the new location, but he would be willing to accept the decision if the present County Road 9 site south of Edison was chosen for the new building. Estimated project cost for building at the State Route 42 site would require borrowing between $1 and $2 million.

Wake stressed that a building is needed because of the tremendous growth of the number of people using the MCTC services. There are now five staff members and 20 drivers who are in and out of the small office every day. He said his original proposal several months ago was to put an addition on to the present County Road 9 administration building.

The possibility of a new building at Young Avenue by the Sheriff’s office on State Route 42 north of Mount Gilead got most of the attention at the beginning of the meeting. Commissioner Dennis Leader noted that interest rates and service on loans are ideal at this time. A USDA Community Facilities Direct Loan would probably work best for a new transportation facility on State Route 42.

Commissioner Dick Miller said it’s exceptional to see rates like this right now.

“It makes sense to make this kind of long term decision for the needs of our growing county,” said Miller.

But ultimately the commissioners’ decision came down to county finances and other departmental needs.

Commissioner, Tom Whiston said, “It comes down to needs and wants. What are the needs for MCTC? It’s the job of the Commissioners to use funds for needs.”

Whiston added the question on whether there are restrictions on the current MCTC cash balance that has now grown to $1,023,937.66. Wake replied that they can use the balance for whatever is needed as long as it isn’t illegal. They do receive guidance from ODOT (Ohio Dept. of Transportation.) But they can use the revenue raised by transportation services for other needs such as salaries, repairs and administration.

Whiston said the Sheriff and courts also have pressing needs at this time. “I can’t see the Sheriff’s deputies out scraping snow and ice off their cars and looking over to see MCTC cars driving out of a heated garage.”

County Auditor, Pat Davies raised the question about the feasibility of a $2 million building since the Morrow County debt limit is just at $1.4 million at this time. “With our revenue down 12 percent in the county we can’t afford added debt. It will affect our bond rating.”

Architect, Jim Brucker gave a cost estimate of the new building on County Road 9 of $400,000 for an office administration building. There would be an added cost for a new septic tank and site preparation of $350,000. There is also a $160,000 debt on that site at this time for the original purchase.

Discussion followed that this County Road 9 project could be accomplished by paying cash, or a much smaller debt of $200,000.

Leader said he is hesitating with going forward on the new State Route 42 site with the credit limit of the county being $1.4 million. He said he doesn’t doubt the worth of the new building project, but the county needs to take care of its current needs without borrowing.

“We can’t do a $2 million project with a $1.4 million credit limit – especially if an emergency would come along and we would need to use some of that credit,” Leader said.

The meeting ended after Whiston made the motion to authorize Don Wake to work with the architect and engineer to build a new transportation administrative building at the present County Road 9 site with finances to be determined. Leader seconded the motion. Both Whiston and Leader voted to approve the motion with Miller voting ‘no.’

There was general agreement that a large portion of the MCTC cash balance needs to remain as a cushion for salaries and operation as needed.

Alberta Stojkovic | The Sentinel

Part of the current MCTC facility on County Road 9 south of Edison. Stojkovic | The Sentinel

Part of the current MCTC facility on County Road 9 south of Edison.

By Alberta Stojkovic

The Sentinel