FRANKLIN COUNTY – One week after voters in Franklin County rejected a $2.9 million dollar bond to expand and renovate the county courthouse, commissioners met to discuss how to move forward.
“The fact is, nothing has changed as far as the county needing the courthouse,” said Commissioner Boyd Burbank. “It is still definitely what we need.”
What they need and were hoping voters would approve, according to county leaders, were upgrades and improvements to the existing 80-year old building located on Oneida Street in Preston.
There are issues with the current “infrastructure in need of updating,” according to Commissioner Dirk Bowles. “The heating, electric, lighting, plumbing…it’s just time for an update on our building to make it last another 80 years.”
The request for improvements also included construction of a new courthouse, which commissioners say is necessary in order to resolve some public safety concerns.
All three commissioners agree the only option at this point is to go back to voters, which they plan to do in the 2020 Presidential Primary Election in March.
While the public will be presented with the same plans for the building, they may be looking at a different price tag.
“We have missed the building season,” said Bowles. “We were planning on breaking ground in March (had the bond passed). We are a year back now.”
He continued, “It will raise the cost. We have not made the decision if it will be for more or if we can supplement it through our regular tax stream. That is a discussion we will need to have before we put it back on the ballot.”
The bond presented to county residents on November 5 needed 66.6% of the vote to pass. It failed by about 60 votes.
“We know what portions of the county we failed in and so it’s our goal as commissioners to focus on those areas of the county,” said Commissioner Robert Swainston. “We’ll get out there and go door to door if we have to, to educate the public.”