County eyes construction of new building
Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

May 7, 2006 -- Hopkins County Commissioners have begun looking at building a new office building near the intersection of Jefferson and Rosemont streets, adjacent to the county's law enforcement center.

"It would be located by the jail with we don't know how many thousand square feet, but we are considering a multi-story building," Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap said. "We are looking at how we can channel the offices into the jail, laying out the parking."

A study was commissioned by the commissioners court this past week to determine the current and future office space needs.

At the end of the 17-week evaluation and inventory of department needs as well as a facilities needs assessment, commissioners will develop a master plan and conceptual drawings to finalize the report.

"The commissioners will evaluate it and we will check our pocketbook to see how much money we've got," the judge said. "We will get citizens involved in the process to do an assessment of needs from the public's standpoint."

Preliminary guesses as to the cost of a new office building for the county range in the neighborhood of $5 million.

Several years ago, the county bought property near the jail which would allow for additional parking as well as a connection to Houston Street.

A site evaluation by an architect has already been completed.

"We are real positive about this and we think we can do this with a great deal of responsibility to the taxpayer."

As for a time frame, Millsap said it will depend on how the assessments come back.

"If it does come back and is pretty positive and commissioners want to move on it, I'd say we are going to move on it pretty quick," he said. "I would say there is a strong possibility this will happen -- it's got to happen because we have no place else to go and we are not going to buy any more older property. We're going to buy and build."

The County Clerk's office has been housed at the old Houston School building on College Street since the restoration of the Hopkins County Courthouse began in 2001.

The county's lease agreement with the school district for the Houston School site will expire at the end of this year. The two entities have been unable to find common ground on either the purchase of the school house by the county, with space leased back to the school, or a new lease agreement.

To lease the building, the county offered to pay the school district as much as $2,500 per month. SSISD officials reportedly want $3,000.

Millsap said that the school building has problems -- leaks in the roof and termites -- and under a lease agreement the county could be responsible for repairs that have been estimated to cost more than $300,000.

Superintendent Patsy Bolton said the school district does not want to have to pay for the expensive roof repairs, either, and said that is why the district wants to sell or lease the building.

"The school district does not want to spend any additional funds on maintaining that part of the building," she said. "We will maintain the part we are using, but we would want the county to maintain the part they are using."

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