The Cole County Commission plans to discuss a long-range plan for county facility needs with department heads and elected officials later this month.

The commission started talking about long-range facility needs in 2014 after shelving a plan to tear down the old sheriff’s house and jail, adjacent to the county courthouse, and put in place a multi-story building to house offices and a new courtroom.

The expansion plan, even with just three floors, would have cost $2.5 million-$3 million, and commissioners weren’t willing to spend that much without trying to take care of other county office space needs.

Commissioners then decided to set aside money in upcoming budgets that could be used for facility needs.

That occurred in December 2016, when Presiding Commissioner Sam Bushman signed a purchase agreement to acquire the clinic facility at 3400 W. Truman Blvd. from Community Health Center of Central Missouri, a nonprofit corporation, for $1.5 million. That property is now the home of the Cole County Health Department.

The county funded the property purchase out of reserves that had been set aside for facility needs. That, along with replacing windows at the courthouse and courthouse annex at a cost of nearly $1 million in 2017, wiped out the money saved for facility work.

Now, the county again is faced with having to build a new courtroom and offices for a new associate circuit judge after the Legislature approved the position last year. Plans currently have the new judge beginning to hear cases in 2021.

Commissioners have asked the county’s economic development partner, Victory Enterprises and Strategic Capital Consulting, to find ways to help fund the construction. Facility and equipment improvements, which make up 15 percent of the county half-cent capital improvement sales tax funds, also could be used to pay for some of the costs. The current tax runs through 2021.

Commissioners also are considering what to do with the old county Health department building on Industrial Drive. Some items remain in the building, and the commission is weighing whether to move the emergency generator at this location to the Prenger Juvenile Detention Center on Stadium Boulevard — the cost to do that has been estimated to be as high as $50,000. Commissioners also are looking at whether to sell the building by itself or together with the parking lot in front of it.

County Information Systems Director Brian Ridenhour on Tuesday suggested the building could house the county’s IT services and have space for more storage.

Cole County Collector Larry Vincent reminded commissioners Tuesday they had discussed in 2014 that the public would be better served if the collector and assessor could be in the same building. The collector is currently in the annex and assessor is in the Carnegie Building on Adams Street.

As he mentioned during discussions in 2014, Western District Commissioner Kris Scheperle reiterated while it would be nice to stay in the “small box” area of downtown Jefferson City where the county offices now are located, the space for growth there is almost completely gone.

“We all used to be over in the courthouse, and 30 years later, look at what we have,” Scheperle said. “We’ve got significant issues that we will be dealing with in the next five to 10 years. If you get a judge, they have a staff that needs space. The public defender has told us they need more space than what they’ve got in Carnegie Building. All offices are going to grow in some way.”

​By Jeff Haldiman | Jefferson City News Tribune​