Housecleaning planned to provide more office space for county

Piatt County officials hope some housecleaning at the Piatt County Office Building will help clear some space in the courthouse for office space as well as shuffling of storage to safer locales.

“We have numerous rooms at the office building that are being occupied by folks that we really don’t know what their status is,” said county board Building and Grounds Committee Chairman Randy Shumard at a meeting June 6.

“A lot of the rooms are not being used properly and/or are stuffed full of things; some haven’t been there for a long time,” he added.

The county purchased the former Kirby Hospital building at 1115 N. State St. in Monticello in 2011, moving offices from the county annex as well as providing room for non-county entities like the Piatt County Historical and Genealogical Society, which observes regular hours.

In the meantime, County Sheriff David Hunt said the county courthouse lacks office space, partially because some offices are used for storage.

“The reason why you (Shumard) and I went out to the office building to evaluate the space is because the courthouse is currently short on space for offices, and we’re using some of the rooms in the courthouse for storage. We’ve got a staff member working in a space they should not be working in, so we’re evaluating the space,” said Hunt, noting a second assistant state’s attorney added to the county staff last year is working out of an office in the judge’s section of the facility.

Voting machines also take up a second floor office that used to house the sheriff’s department prior to the construction of the Public Safety Building 14 years ago. The machines do not need to be housed at the courthouse except for times of voting, but County Clerk Jennifer Harper said it would make election prep more difficult.

“It does have to be in a locked and secured place. But as elections approach, three months ahead of time we’re working upstairs (with voting machines) and downstairs (in the county clerk’s office), so we’re working both places at the same time,” she said.

Hunt felt if some space could be cleared at the courthouse – possibly by moving some items in storage to the PCOB – the machines could move to another location within the courthouse and still open up office space.

“It’s not my intent to move the voting equipment out of the courthouse, but I think we’ve got to use the office space for the office, for personnel,” added Hunt.

Committee members felt there was currently no clear procedure as to who could use storage and even some office spaces at the office building. A map of occupants and the places they are assigned is being drawn up, and County Board Chairman Al Manint felt the building and grounds committee should be in charge of authorizing space.

County Maintenance Supervisor Scott Stephenson said some of what is stored in the courthouse attic should be moved due to safety concerns, commenting that ceiling joists installed there may not have enough load bearing capacity to handle the burgeoning use of the space.

“There are a lot of file cabinets up there, there’s a lot of papers, and every year they are adding more and you’ve got a lot of weight up there,” commented Stephenson.

Hunt said the first step is to identify PCOB offices that are not being used or are just spots for storage at this point. Those entities may be notified to clear that space so it can be used by the county for other purposes.

He said the county is not considering moving any offices from the courthouse to the PCOB.

The county in 2011 took out $750,000 in borrowing to cover the purchase and renovation of the former hospital into an office building.


 

Tree removal

The county approved a $700 bid from Richards Tree Service to remove a dying tree at the office building. It was the lowest of three bids.

However, committee members decided to do what they could to save a sycamore that has been shedding branches on the west side of the courthouse square. Hunt felt the county should instead consult with an arborist first before considering removal since the tree lies on nationally designated historic property.

An $18,491 bid from Dunn Company to resurface the office building parking lot was accepted, and will be considered by the full county board on June 13. Shumard preferred a higher bid of $20,570 that would limit the work to weekends only, noting there are less delivery trucks and visitors at that time.

But fellow committee members Ray Spencer and Bob Murrell favored the lower figure.

“I’m in favor of saving the taxpayers $2,000,” said Murrell. “For a little bit of inconvenience for the people who are going to benefit from it, it’s worth $2,000. I mean, every time we can save a dollar or 2,000 I’m in favor of saving the money.”

A patch of the mental health center/Piatt County Transportation property is also in the works, and will include replacing and properly grading the section where water gathers, plus the possible addition of parking spaces to the west portion of the lot.

The rehab job of the 60-year-old courthouse elevator is nearly complete. After being inspected and certified by the state, it could reopen. Stephenson said that could be by the end of this week.


 

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