Rock Building restoration faces issues

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Commissioners debated the fate of the Rock Building on Monday, but took no action on the most recent renovation proposals.

Pike County Probate Judge Wes Allen joined residents David and Sherry Helms in appearing before commissioners on Monday to discuss Allen’s proposal to jointly fund a renovation of the dilapidated public building between the commission and the probate judge’s office.

However, commissioners said Allen had not considered the full costs associated with the repairing the building and his $521,000 proposal included the costs only for metal framing and a roof.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“I came to you and talked to about you the situation, and I told you No. 1 that you had worked a burr under our saddle,” said Joey Jackson, District 5. “Number 2, I don’t want anybody in this room to think that if we go and we borrow the money and work on the Rock Building you have a complete building. What you have is a metal building inserted inside the walls. You don’t have any water, electricity, plumbing or air conditioning. It’s not ready to do what needs to be done there.”

Allen had proposed funding the commission $20,000 a year for 10 year to help pay for the restoration and also encouraged commissioners to seek a 10-year loan to fund the estimated $521,000 restoration of the abandoned county building. Allen said he had contacted two local bank presidents, who provided estimated financing costs used in his proposal. He estimated the annual debt service on the loan would be about $63,000 a year.

Sherry Helms, one of two Pike County residents spearheading the restoration of the Rock Building, said her and her husband, David, had stood before the commissioners a year ago and had explained their intention to renovate and restore the historic building only to have the commission seem less than excited about the opportunity.

“About a year ago, David and I stood right her and told you what we wanted to do,” Helms said. “You were a little excited but not gung-ho. I saw where you decided you wanted to be the ones to fix the rock building.”

Commissioner Charlie Harris said that while he supported the Helms’ effort of restoring the landmark, the commission would not be prepared to act until it could secure a steady stream of revenue to cover the amount of money need to take out a loan to pay for the construction. And that steady stream of revenue might be a sales tax.

“That’s the citizen’s building of Pike County.” Harris said. “The citizens of Pike County … are afraid of sales tax. Troy can put a tax on you any time they get ready, (but) the Pike County Commission can’t do that. But if we can get together with the cities and the county and get (state Rep.) Alan Boothe to represent us and put on a 1-cent sales tax, I’ll be for it.”

Commissioners took no action on the proposal and Helms said she plans to attempt to come before the commission again at its next meeting to continue the discussion.

In other business, the Rev. Charlie Sankey, Sr., spoke to commissioners about the condition of County Road 1105.

“The road is in such a bad shape I am afraid that somebody is going to get injured or killed on that road,” Sankey said. “There are a lot of other roads that are not being completely resurfaced but the bad spots are being worked out. They are paving those and fixing the bad spots, so why can’t they do that on 1105? We have three or four bad spots that need attention.”

Jackson told Sankey that some of the roads being repaired are funded through federal dollars. “For County Road 1135, what you’re seeing right now is your federal dollars at work in a road that is collector road, it falls under a collector so we can take federal money and we can fix it.”

Jackson said the commission would continue to work tirelessly to solve the issues on the county’s roads and asked County Engineer Russell Oliver to get an estimate on fixing 1105.

Also among discussion for the meeting was House Bill 447, which would allow for an increase in the salary for probate judges across the state. The Association of County Commissioners provided the commission with a resolution opposing the bill.

“If that passes that is taxpayer money out of the county,” Harris said. “That is money we would have to pay out of the county. It would give you a 1.25 percent per year raise … anywhere from $90,000 to $105,000 a year plus you would be given a raise. And if the commission decides to give an employee raise in the budget, you would give that too. That is money that we could do other things with.”

The commission on a 4-2 vote approved the resolution sent down by the ACC.