County awaiting vote to complete complex plan

Sharna Johnson

Curry County commissioners voted Tuesday to wait on the final phase of an architect’s plan for a judicial complex until after voters decide in November whether to fund the project.

They also — following a more than hour-long executive session — granted the county manager authority to proceed with purchasing private properties needed to expand the courthouse and jail.

The request from County Manager Lance Pyle to proceed with the $83,000, third portion of the master plan was originally placed on the meeting’s consent agenda but was opened up for discussion at the suggestion of Commissioner Caleb Chandler.

The third phase would cover more in-depth planning issues such as utility availability, infrastructure, planning restrictions and other items.

Commissioner Wendell Bostwick said he was torn between needing it for public information’s sake and saving the money until voters decide if the project will even move forward in the November general election.

Commissioner Frank Blackburn moved to table the request until after the election.

“It’s my belief there’s enough confusion already; whether it’s $16 million, $33 million or $90 million,” he said. “I move we wait until after the election.”

Because according to procedure, Blackburn’s motion put an end to discussion, Commissioner Dan Stoddard, who said he still had questions on the issue, voted no.

Voters will decide in November whether to increase property and gross receipt taxes to pay for the $33 million first phase — which includes a new two-story jail and courthouse — of the master plan will be implemented.

Architects have said the full, four-phase plan could cost $90 million.

The proposed judicial complex would occupy a three-block tract of land from Seventh to 10th streets between Main and Mitchell streets.

Part of the master plan created by architects calls for the county to purchase five properties, Zip Printing, Master Trim, The Hartley House and two residential properties.

Commissioners approved agreements July 7 with the property owners, giving the county first option to purchase the lots.

Under the agreements, the county will pay more than $750 a month — in individual payments of $100 to $250 per property, per month — to give it first option to purchase the privately owned properties lying within the tract.

A $920,000 allowance for the purchase of the properties is built into the proposal being pitched to voters, according to cost projections presented by architects.

Commissioners also unanimously approved a contract for nearly $20,000 for public relations services related to the bond questions to fund the judicial complex.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners:

• Approved a resolution allowing the treasurers office to charge a fee of up to $5 for mailing and processing property tax bills that are less than $5. Treasurer Bernice Baker said the county has mailed 635 such bills this year and passes a resolution allowing the fee every year.

• Heard a report from Road Superintendent Chris Pacheco about plans to paint reflective stripes at the intersection of Curry roads K and Four near Southwest Cheese to remind drivers to slow as they approach. Pacheco also said he is going to start the process of having the speed limit reduced to 45 mph to reduce accident risks at the intersection.

Pacheco said there is no posted speed limit in the area, which has been the site of several crashes, including a fatal crash last year.

• Approved a preliminary plat for the Eagle Crest subdivision and approved subdivisions Rose Point and Van Ruiten, which the city plans to annex in the near future, according to Tim Lyman from the assessor’s office.