Decatur County Council & Commissioners Special Meeting

The Decatur County Council and the Decatur County Commissioners met for a Special Session on March 7, 2024, at 9:00 am. The meeting began with the Pledge of Allegiance.

The meeting began with Danny Peters, Council President stating that he had been asked to call this meeting and he asked the others to begin the discussion. Bill Metz, Council Member stated that he would go as he was one of the ones that asked this meeting be called. He stated that the original reason for this meeting was to discuss reducing the Jail Special Use tax. However, he was told that this could not be done. Deanna Burkart, Council Member stated that she had an email from Reuben, Financial Advisor stating that they can reduce it. She said that the email states that if they lower it by .05% the average savings per household would be $36 and reduce the revenue for the county by around $300,000 a year. .

The Council and Commissioners discussed what the revenue in the special use account vs. expenses are. The tax is a local income tax specifically created to pay for the building of the new Decatur County Sheriff’s Department and correctional facility. The council all agreed that lowering the tax would make sense. Danny Peters stated that they owed it to the citizens and that when they introduced the tax for the jail they had told everyone they would reduce it as soon as they could. The council as a whole stated that they can lower 0.05% and they still will be in line with paying the bond off in the 10-15 year timeline that they had set. The bond is for 20 years, however Tony Blodgett, Commissioner stated that if paid off by the 15th year they were looking at $200,000 savings. Kenny Hooten, Council Member stated that if they can do without the tax being at the level it is he would like to see it lowered. The council was unable to vote as this was a Special Session. However, Danny Peters will reach out to their financial advisor to see if they have to post this or have any public hearings. The current tax is .065% and the majority would like to reduce the tax to .060%.

Danny Peters, Council President then said we are also here to talk about the Food & Beverage Tax. Kenny Hooten Council Member said that he continues to have the same thoughts and stance as he did at the last couple of meetings. Kenny believes that the council should table indefinitely the F&B tax. The pool is not something that should utilize the F&B tax. He said that the tax could be used for future plans at the fairgrounds. Kenny said that the fairgrounds could get the needed attention and become a space to bring revenue into the county year-round. He said that they need to keep the tax as a possibility if needed down the road.

Jeremy Pasel, Commissioner stated that they have already applied for READI 2.0 for the fairgrounds and that ask includes Equine Center, Event Space, and Covered Bleachers for the track area. The current ask is for up to two million dollars. Jeremy asked where the county match would be coming from for those projects.

Tony Blodgett, Commissioner then said that the concern is the county has too many projects that need to be completed and that they need to figure out the funding source. Tony mentioned the Annex, Animal Shelter, Pool, and other projects. The Council then told Tony to start getting bids for the Annex. Tony and Jeremy both stated that this had already happened. Danny Peters and Bill Metz both said that this was through a previous company that didn’t break down the total cost. They would like to see the costs broken down to the individual project such as windows bid, HVAC bid, and roof bid. Jeremy Pasel said that they could put the project out to individual bids. No one responded to him. Jeremy added that EDIT money would be the best funding to utilize for the Annex upgrades.

Jeff Whitaker, a citizen and developer spoke and stated that he reached out to a licensed architect to discuss the cost of building a pool. He said that the price of the pool shouldn’t come out anywhere near the figures that have been presented. He said this source told him that the largest cost would be concrete and even with that figure this shouldn’t increase the cost to build into the multi-millions.

Ernie Gauck, Council Member stated that he believes that they have gone about this the wrong way and that they should look at other General Contractors. He said, “I don’t know who brought these RL Turner people into the picture.” Ernie then said that he believes that the council should get a real bid with a design. He said that they need to get 2 or 3 companies to present numbers and then we have something to look at. Then he said then we have an idea of how much money we need to come up with. “We are not building a bridge over a river and we aren’t building a skyscraper. It’s a hole in the ground with a liner and filtration system.”

Teresa Kovacich, Decatur County Parks & Rec Executive Director said what we need to understand is that this is not just a body of water in the ground. We are talking about the need for amenities. We have amenities and a facility that draws people to come to the pool. This is not and has not been envisioned as just a body of water. We must have a new chemical building and chlorination systems. Everything must be done to code. If we are going to build we need to build for what the county needs, wants, and deserves.

Ernie then responded to Teresa’s comments. He said that we are making a list of what amenities you want. List your slides and diving boards as extras and then have some contractors bid on the project. He said he thinks there is a lot of costs we are being asked to pay here that we dont need to pay. He said 18% of the final bid price. He asked do you know what 18% of a 4 million dollar project. He estimated $600,000 just to have someone say you are doing it right.

Deanna Burkart responded to Ernie by stating “So every other community we went to see in the state was not as smart as us? So we are the smart ones and we know more than all of those other communities that we went and visited.”

Jim McIntyre, a citizen asked the council and commissioners to show where the pool has ever broken even or made a profit. Deanna responded that Teresa has information to support that the pool will. Jim said the money being spent for the pool could go to other things such as Kohler Park. It was said that this isn’t correct. Jim repeated himself and said does the money for the parks and the pool not both come out of the same budget? It was agreed it is.

Tony Blodgett, Commissioner said that one of the things that he has been attempting to ask for is a committee by Council members and Commissioner members. This committee would create a list of projects that need to be completed in Decatur County. Danny said that today we are here to discuss the two taxes. If we want to talk about other items I would be happy to get something scheduled.

Danny asked if anyone had any further items to discuss and Deanna Burkart said that she would hope at the next meeting when they possibly lower the Special Use Tax, they hear some applause since everyone thinks they won’t lower taxes. She said she would like to hear some Yes’ instead of some boo’s all of the time. She ended by saying that would be nice.

Deanna then went on to say that as far as the pool, there are some additional funding sources that she is still working on. She said we have heard from and she confirmed as she was walking in this morning, that the Community Foundation may be willing to do a loan to the County Council from the foundation funds. Which would be a win-win because their interest payments could be utilized here in the community. Deanna said that she thinks if the council can come up with 1- 1.5 million dollars of the county’s money they can cover the cost of the pool.

The meeting was adjourned.

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