I've been out of town for the past two weeks on business and pleasure, but I understand in my absence, there are several people voicing concerns about the proposed courthouse parking lot project. Some of the concerns and objections have been voiced in person to the other two commissioners and also to members of the county council.

I would like to offer some clarity to these concerns, at least from my perspective. The upgrading of the parking lot is but one facet of particular actions that need to take place in the coming months. I've outlined those actions below:

1) For the past several months, the President of the County Council, all of the Commissioners, one of the Judges, the County Sheriff, the County Auditor, the County Prosecutor, the County Attorney, the County Building Department Administrator, the Commissioners Administrative Assistant, the County Highway Supt. and the EMA Director have been meeting in executive session to discuss Courthouse security and security for all county offices. One of the issues that prompted this action was a threat we received last summer from a convicted felon from Illinois, who was sentenced here in our county. This is NOT the 1st threat experienced here, and sad to say, it probably won't be the last. Rather than wait any longer for action, collectively, we decided we should begin talking about security issues at our courthouse and other offices and discuss potential solutions. Although I cannot and will not reveal those particular discussions from the non-public executive sessions, I will say, we need to move forward with some proactive deterrents rather than wait for something out of the ordinary to occur here in our midst. We've seen school corporations and other courthouses all across the state and nation take similar actions, in recent months and years.

2) Cities, towns and county's across the state are all under orders from the Federal Government to submit plans for ADA compliance. We are not exempt from this law so we entered into a contract with DLZ Engineering to assess our ADA needs. The most obvious county building with issues is the county courthouse. In order to address those needs in the most economical fashion, it is thought by many (myself included), we should coordinate any efforts and improvements with the items mentioned in the previous paragraph, related to security.

3) INDOT is moving forward, with traffic flow improvements on northbound Washington Street. They will be adding a right hand turn lane on the east side of Washington Street in order to allow two non-restricted lanes continuing northward. This should alleviate some of the traffic jams on Washington Street. Again, as indicated in the previous paragraph, it makes sense to coordinate the courthouse parking lot/security upgrade/ADA upgrade with the INDOT effort. Some of the cost of sidewalks will be absorbed by the state and because of the coordination of efforts money can be saved for all taxpayers.

The items mentioned in the paragraphs above are going to happen; some are work-in-process, as we speak. I want to briefly address the finances required to fund these projects.

The cumulative capital development fund (commonly referred to as CCD) was established many years ago by the State for projects such as this. Although the State has allowed some other uses of this money in recent times, the main function is to make improvements on county owned property. The CCD monies collected come directly from their own property tax rate, which is adjusted by the county council on an annual basis. The money cannot be used for roads, it cannot be used to compensate employees, it cannot be used to pay our insurance; it has very restricted uses.

While I was out of town, I emailed Lori Dossett and asked her to inquire about fund balances in CCD and projected 2014 income for the same account. Yesterday, at our commissioners meeting, the current cash balance was reported at $633,448.81 and estimated 2014 income should be around $612,493.00.

I understand peoples concerns when we start talking about spending hundreds of thousands of dollars. I'm in business and I'm confronted with costs and spending on a daily basis. I'm also a taxpayer and I don't want to see money wasted.

Following are some approximate cost estimates of various components of the project. Note: these are only estimates:

1) Security. (Parking lot) $50,000-$60,000 for the outdoor portion. Basically using the "plaza area" as a deterrent and seating.

2) Parking lot lighting. $40,000.00. Good lighting is also a component of security.

3) ADA Ramp and other compliance issues. $160,000.00-$170,000.00. This price also includes the ramp, guard railing, grading and asphalt for this portion of the project.

4) Storm water storage (underground). $90,000.00-$105,000.00. This may or may not be required. We need input from the city regarding their requirements.

5) Fencing. $110,000.00-$115,000.00. This includes louvered fencing shielding the utilities and trash pick-up areas. This does NOT include the masonry material or labor for the "welcome" sign.

6) Landscaping. $55,000.00. This price includes shrubs, appropriate trees and underground piping /hydrants for irrigation purposes.

7) Pavement and resurfacing. $135,000.

8) Engineering. DLZ has not yet been placed on the commissioner's agenda to present an engineering quote for final design and the final design is not determined. So, at this point in time, I don't have an engineering estimate. Even though engineering costs are expensive, improper planning of such a project could very well cost us more money in the long run.

Beautification of the corner, in my opinion, may not be a necessity and it shouldn't be used in the same context as security or ADA compliance issues, but never the less, this is the gateway to the City of Crawfordsville and Montgomery County. We should have an attractive entry to the city and show some additional pride as people enter our community. This is the intersection of U.S. 136 and U.S. 231; not many small communities have the luxury of two U.S. highways intersecting in their towns. If we want to draw new business and new residents to this community, we need to be willing to make some improvements ourselves while remaining practical and making the best uses of taxpayer money; I understand that concept.

Is a project like this one going to be easy and without controversy? Probably not! But I appreciate Winston Churchill's quote: "The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty."

How will we be defined?

Thanks for listening!! Phil Bane.



Phil Bane is a Montgomery County Commissioner. His column appears this week in The Paper's Monday space allocated for public officials.