Keith looking for economical options with move

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After magistrates approve relocation, future of current sheriff’s office unclear

By Molly Haines

With Owen County operating on a tight budget, cost has become a concern of moving the sheriff’s office.

At the March 10 Owen County Fiscal Court meeting, a representative from the sheriff’s office reported most of their staff had suffered upper respiratory problems. Although the Kentucky Department of Labor had inspected the entire building, no unusual circumstances were found.

Earlier this month, the fiscal court agreed to temporarily move the Owen County Sheriff’s Office after magistrates Bobby Gaines and Ray Smith, members of the court’s facilities committee, inspected the building’s second floor, which is not in use.

Gaines and Smith said they found birds had been entering the building and there was some speculation by employees of the office that the birds’ feces could be related to the staff’s illnesses.

The court discussed temporarily moving the sheriff’s office to a building owned by Curtis Sigretto on U.S. 22E. The rent would be $1,000 per month and Sigretto would pay the utilities.

Owen County Judge-Executive Carolyn Keith said she was concerned about the cost of the move.

“I’ve been informed that the cost of Internet service will need to be added in,” Keith said. “I’ve been working on seeing how much the various hookups and the service itself will cost.”

Keith also said a second restroom has also been requested if the temporary office is located in the building on U.S. 22E.

“There will be a lot of hidden costs as well,” Keith said. “Whenever you have a move like this there are things you don’t catch before the move that have to be taken care of.”

Keith said the court will not tap into the county’s reserve for the move.

With the move, the future of the current office, which is on the National Registry of Historic Buildings, is unclear.

“Because the building is on this registry, it brings up a whole new avenue we must go down,” Keith said. “We have to continue to maintain the building. We cannot simply turn off the light, close the door and walk away.”

Keith said there are several options open for the building, including a county office on the first floor and a museum on the second floor.

Keith said the Kentucky Heritage Preservation will go through the building today to see how structurally sound it is.

“There seems to be some concern over the structural soundness of the building because of the steel and metal on the second floor,” Keith said. “The Kentucky Heritage Preservation will check that for us and also the feasibility of a museum on the second floor.”

Once the structural soundness of the building is confirmed, the county could obtain funding through a grant for work on the building, Keith said.

Although money is an issue, if employees of the sheriff’s office are becoming ill they need to be relocated, Keith said.

“If they think there’s a health problem, I certainly don’t want them to stay,” Keith said. “But I’d also like to be as conservative with our expenditures as possible.”

Magistrate Teresa Davis said the court voted to temporarily move the sheriff’s office because of the poor condition of the building as a whole.

“If we knew that the sheriff’s office could be cleaned up in one week and it was only going to cost $5,000 and that would take care of everything, that would be fine,” Davis said. “But we don’t know that.”

Davis said the office has several problems other than employees becoming ill.

“There’s a steel beam that’s weak, there are mice running around downstairs and the cracks in the ceiling are getting bigger.”

Owen County Sheriff Zemer Hammond said he was unaware of any structural issues and that mice are not a problem.

Davis said the $5,000 that would have gone toward  having the current sheriff’s office cleaned, will now go toward the first five months rent if the court chooses the location on U.S. 22E. She said that after the first five months, Sheriff Hammond would pay the rent until the new courthouse opens.

Keith said the sheriff’s office would not pay the rent for the temporary facility, but that it would have to come from the general fund.

“Money may be tight,” Davis said. “But we can’t put a price tag on the health of those employees.”

The fiscal court held a special meeting yesterday to vote on a temporary sheriff’s office.