Commissioners make the case for courthouse renovation sales tax at Marshall Rotary meeting

Friday, March 14, 2008
Northern District Commissioner of Saline County Norvelle "Brownie" Brown reads the exact wording of the ballot to the Marshall Rotary Club after questions were asked about the sales tax placement of funds. (Rachel Harper/Democrat-News)

Two Saline County Commissioners were the guest speakers Thursday, March 13, at the Marshall Rotary Club meeting.

Northern District Commissioner Norvelle "Brownie" Brown gave a presentation on why the 1/4-cent sales tax should be passed to preserve the 125-year-old courthouse.

"The courthouse is sound but needs cosmetic-work," he said.

The proposed tax would generate about $500,000 per year according to past records; however, sales tax is down substantially from the years in the past.

The tax does have a seven-year sunset clause.

Brown said if someone bought $100 of groceries, they would pay a quarter more for the sales tax.

In April 2007, Susan Richards Johnson & Associates of Kansas City (SRJ) conducted a detailed, complex feasibility study. The study cost about $33,000 and a $10,000 grant from the state's Department of Natural Resources helped offset that price.

The rest of the study was paid for with tax dollars, according to Brown.

The entire courthouse renovation project will cost about $3.2 million, Brown said.

On Thursday, March 6, Missouri Lt. Governor Peter Kinder presented the county commission with a $90,000 check to be used to partially fund a roof replacement.

The funds awarded through the state came from a grant that Presiding Commissioner Becky Plattner wrote through Missouri Heritage Properties Program.

Brown said there were 39 applicants and only 12 counties were awarded funds. Nodaway County and Saline County both received grants of $90,000.

"That doesn't leave the other 10 counties with much funding," Brown said. "We were very, very fortunate."

The first priority for the courthouse renovations is the roof.

"We have got to fix the roof and got to fix the gutters," Brown said.

Some other repairs on the agenda include the heating system. The boiler is less than 10 years old, but provides different temperatures for different offices.

The commissioners office is usually cold, but the prosecuting attorney's office is running the air conditioning all year long, even when it is 20 degrees above zero outside, Brown said.

The columns on the north and south entrance are looking meek. According to Southern District Commissioner Dick Hassler, the cleaning up of the eight columns will cost about $100,000.

"The columns should have never been painted," Plattner said, but they were painted in an earlier restoration attempt by previous commissioners.

Hassler said the columns cannot have the paint sandblasted off because it will just take the sandstone with it. Brown said an acid or chemical has to used to remove the paint.

Hassler said the commission will have George K. Baum & Company of Kansas City do the leg work for the bond language and bonds.

"We can't wait five or six or seven years to work on (the courthouse)," Brown said.

Brown said there would be more funding available for the renovation if the commission didn't have to set back $45,000 for three murder trials. The jury will have to be placed in a hotel with no newspapers, television or any other source to sway their verdict and the county has to pay for that.

The Saline County Courthouse is the center of attraction in the county. According to Brown, the style of the courthouse is one of two still standing.

"There is one in Iowa that is almost identical to ours," he said. There is another one in Indiana that is similar, but still not the same.

Many questions arose from members of Rotary but the main one seemed to be the guarantee that the funds would only be used for courthouse renovations and not transferred to other line items.

"I would love to pass another tax as long as games aren't played and funds moved around," said Rotarian Matt Meyer.

Brown said the sales tax will be put in a separate line item that cannot be moved or touched for anything but the courthouse renovation, and the April ballot states this.

"If it doesn't have that verbiage than it won't pass," said Rotarian David Van Horn.

Hassler said, "It's all going to be spent up-front anyway." Any remaining funds will be used to maintain the preservation of the courthouse. This is also stated on the ballot.

For more information or to ask questions, feel free to contact the commissioners at 886-7777.

Contact Rachel Harper at

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  • Thanks, Mr. Kinder. I'm glad to see that you're working for the people of our county.

    -- Posted by thekid on Fri, Mar 14, 2008, at 11:15 PM
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