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Published: Wednesday, 5/4/2011

$3.5M Monroe County road service center in jeopardy

Panel retreats from moving forward on project after community outrage

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

MONROE -- A new service center to replace the Monroe County Road Commission facility destroyed nearly a year ago in a tornado that tore through Dundee could be in limbo.

The three-member county road commission last week rescinded a decision to ask approval from the Monroe County Board of Commissioners to sell bonds to finance the $3.5 million building.

Fanned by community outrage that the money would be better spent on crumbling roads, the road commissioners said they want more time to get the message out on the need for the service center.

The cash-strapped road commission had planned on building the service center on land it owns at Ida West Road and U.S. 23 in Summerfield Township. The agency built a salt barn at the site several years ago.

Howard Penrod, road commission managing director, said the project would be paid with a nearly $1 million settlement that the agency received on the insurance claim on the Dundee garage and $2.5 million in operating money.

"The insurance money is not enough to pay for the costs of the building," Mr. Penrod said, explaining that modern building standards are among the reasons why the new structure would cost more than the insurance settlement.

The project, which was approved April 7 by the road commission panel, included engineering and design, ground work for utilities, drainage, and a septic system as well architectural work on the 15,000-square-foot building, providing enough space to park 16 trucks.

The commission also approved asking the county commissioners to sell bonds to finance the project. The request was put on the commissioners' agenda and then removed before the board met April 12. The financing proposal involved issuing $2.5 million in bonds that would be repaid over 25 years.

"That fell apart because some members of the board of commissioners felt there was an alternative that might be viable and that was to buy property with an existing building," Mr. Penrod said. "They believed we could spend significantly less."

A potential option on buying the alternative property was discussed at last week's meeting, but the road commission panel said the building couldn't accommodate the agency's needs.

"Everything is on hold until the board can review alternatives and come to a consensus on how we can proceed," Mr. Penrod said.

With the loss of the Dundee garage, maintenance crews are dispatched each day from the road center garage on South Telegraph Road in Monroe, a situation that Mr. Penrod said costs the agency in labor to travel to the nearly eight townships that were served by the Dundee garage.

He calculates that wear and tear on vehicles, fuel, and labor savings in having the Ida West facility would equate to about $170,000 annually, less the interest and principal payment on the bonds for the project.

"I still believe the property on Ida West is the most economical and efficient way for us to provide service on that side of Monroe County," Mr. Penrod said.



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