Barry County Commissioners were decidedly cool to a proposal to wait another six weeks before deciding on a million dollar improvement project at the Barry County Transit.
Transit Manager Bill Voigt asked approval of expansion plans to be paid for by transit funds in May. The commission wanted an appraisal first, part of the process of deciding on where to put a new county jail, and tabled the request.
On Monday, Barry County Commissioners Ben Geiger and Howard “Hoot” Gibson and County Administrator Michael Brown, met with County Sheriff Dar Leaf, County Transit Manager Bill Voigt, Hastings City Manager Jeff Mansfield, Mayor Davie Tossava and Clerk/Treasurer Jerry Czarnecki to update them on the progress on the planning for a new county jail.
“The process has been moving at a rapid pace; the meeting was to let us know what they’re doing,” Mansfield said. “This isn’t new; we’ve been involved all along, talking about commercial development along the State Street corridor.
“State Street goes beyond the city limits; we’ve talked many, many times with the county and neighboring townships about zoning issues, infrastructure needs, our master plan and the impact on the community of all commercial development. We just want to stay involved.”
Mansfield served on the steering committee for the county’s 2015 Facilities Plan. He expects to serve on a future committee when the county develops a new plan.
Geiger asked for the delay Tuesday, saying Hastings officials had concerns about the extent of the appraisal of the transit and jail property that was delivered by appraiser John Meyers last week.
Meyer’s recommendation was the highest and best use for the property at 1212 West State Street was to keep the transit, valued at $700,000, at its present location, demolish the present jail and sell the then-vacant nine acres, valued at $1,150,000, for commercial development.
Geiger said the property is a key piece of real estate and what they do is a, “100 year decision.” His concern is that commissioners “might miss an opportunity or move in a way that closed doors.”
He suggested an analysis by a master planner who could tell them if they should go ahead with Meyer’s assessment, or take another look at what they were committing to. “One thing we can’t do is move ahead, making a mistake,” he said.
Each commissioner had reservations about waiting any longer to move ahead; that the appraiser told them it was the best and highest use of the property, the delay of the transit proposal since May, why Hastings officials brought it up, “after all this time,” that there was no need to hold it up for more opinions after working on it for a year, putting it off would affect construction timelines for the transit with the cost going up, and why they would need another evaluation.
Commissioners agreed Hastings is an important governmental partner, but their main concern is Barry County taxpayers. The discussion continued with more reservations being brought up until Commissioner Dan Parker suggested a one week delay to let Hastings and county officials, and possibly the appraiser by phone, meet to clarify the situation.
Geiger said he liked the idea; commissioners will talk about it again at the committee of the whole Sept. 4, with no action taken until the regular board meeting on Sept. 11. Geiger will try to get the meeting scheduled in the first week.