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Published: Wednesday, 3/24/2004

Lucas County delays improvement plan

Lucas County commissioners put off approving the 2004 capital improvement plan yesterday because of concerns that the county's greatest needs were not necessarily being met.

Namely, Commissioner Maggie Thurber pointed to a recommendation to buy more than $17,500 worth of furniture for the prosecutor's office as a reason to postpone the approval. She then asked that commissioners be given the chance to offer input on the plan.

The total recommended plan included 15 projects totaling $2.5 million. The proposal will return to the board at the April 6 meeting.

"To buy furniture at a time when we have roofs leaking seems much less of a lower priority than some of these other items that are not funded," Ms. Thurber said.

To ensure the county doesn't fall behind on its requirements to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Ms. Thurber and Commissioner Tina Skeldon-Wozniak approved the $432,169 needed for this year's upgrades. Commissioner Harry Barlos was absent.

The capital improvement plan is created each year by a six-member board: the county administrator, the assistant county administrator, and the directors of the offices of management and budget; facilities; risk management, and Americans With Disabilities.

The list of recommendations usually is presented to the board about two weeks after the county's general fund budget is approved, budget director John Zeitler said.

He added that the two-week postponement should not affect any of the projects.

Prosecutor Julia Bates said the furniture item "should not be a deal breaker" for the rest of the budget.

She said that the $657,000 allocated to centralize her office on the first and second floors of the Family Court Center was more important.

Mrs. Bates said the county has been replacing old and broken furniture in her office over the years in small amounts. Last year, the office did not replace anything because of money woes.

"It's a pretty petty issue to nix a budget on, really,'' Mrs. Bates said. "And if that's an issue, I'm certainly willing to say we can put that off for another year or find another source of funding as long as it doesn't impede the big picture of consolidating our staff and services under one roof."

Other items in the proposed budget include $338,000 to renovate the courthouse, $125,000 for correction center washers and dryers, and $58,000 for X-ray machines for the courthouse.

John Alexander, acting county administrator, said that the items were chosen as priorities among the 77 requests submitted based on items such as safety issues, ADA requirements, and maintenance issues.



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