Health department repairs start soon

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Reporter - Jason Hibbs
Photojournalist - Jason Thomasson

MARSHALL COUNTY, Ky. - Inspectors say the brand new health department building is not safe, and does not meet accessibility or seismic standards.  But that will soon change.   Friday, the Marshall County Health Department building's new contractor got the go ahead to start $2.3 million in repairs.

The building, located just off Highway 641 in Benton, was supposed to open in February of last year, but inspectors said there were serious problems with the building, problems that had to be fixed.

Friday, the county board of health voted to accept the bids to begin reconstruction.

Lots of things need to be fixed, ranging from building stronger exterior walls, to making bathrooms, hallways, and doorways wheelchair accessible.

Judge Executive Mike Miller said the county has excellent credit, but they won't need it.  Turns out, the Board of Health has enough in the bank and this is why:  $1.4 million is sitting in an account dedicated to the new construction, but that money was never paid because construction was halted.  The board has another $1.4 million in a savings account. The judge said no health department services will be cut, plus he's hoping the county will recoup all the repair costs.

"We were so excited because we thought we were getting to the end.  Then all of the sudden these things start popping up," Miller said.

Big things, that wouldn't pass inspection and cost millions to fix. The county sued the former architect and contractor for repair costs, but only time will tell when and if they recoup those costs.
The board planned on hearing from lenders so they could borrow the money in the meantime, but Judge Executive Mike Miller said there's no need.

"We have the money.  We're going to drain the reserve down low.  However, by the time you make the last payment, taxes will come back in, and the reserve will be built back up," Miller said.

So the board voted unanimously to start reconstruction A.S.A.P.

The only noticeable difference for passersby will be a different roof.  The board wants to look into metal instead of shingles. Construction starts in a few weeks.  Miller said it can't be finished soon enough.

The contractor has 12 months to complete the reconstruction, but he's hoping to be finished early, by December.

The judge hopes it costs less than they expect but if something happens and they need more money, the judge says they could borrow money, but again it looks like they wont have to.

General contractor, Dennis Smith told the board he'll have a pre-construction meeting within two weeks, then reconstruction can begin.

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