Brittney Burns – Staff Writer
Over the last two budget cycles, the Macon County Board of Commissioners have identified significant needs within the county infrastructure and things they would like to see improved. From new schools to address overcrowding to the safety at the Board of Elections office, commissioners have each expressed concerns that would result in substantial financial commitments to properly address them. For the 2017-18 fiscal year, County Manager Derek Roland is launching a Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), that will survey all county buildings and facilities and develop a strategic plan to address the needs and concerns of both the commissioners and the community.
“The CIP will identify, analyze and prioritize capital improvements over a 10-year time span,” said Roland. “Capital Improvements typically exceed $10,000 in value and have a life of five to 10-plus years. In addition to identifying and prioritizing these projects the CIP will also contain recommendations for financing them. At the end of the day, this plan will enable us to accomplish many needed capital improvements in Macon County.”
With a fund balance far above the state recommended amount, Roland noted that utilizing some of the fund balance would be one possibility in financing such projects. Each commissioners has a different idea of what they would like to see done, but all agree that developing a comprehensive plan is where to start.
“One of the great things about a CIP is that it will determine what improvements need to happen and the best way to pay for them via a deductive study versus having an opinion of what should happen,” said Commission Chair Jim Tate. “So, anything that I would say now would just be a reasonable guess; however, from what I have gathered from my time on the board, these items need addressing: the jail needs expansion and improvements, South Macon School needs expansion, and several of our current buildings need improvements. There has also been some discussion of a new Franklin High School, and this one item could potentially cost well over $50 million. We, as a board, have been trying to prepare for these items by slowly building our fund balance, so that when the time does come, we will be in outstanding financial condition and prepared to handle the burden.”
School needs are also a priority for Karl Gillespie, who is the newest member of the board of commissioners.
“I feel the CIP plan our County Manager has proposed will help us develop a long term plan and I look forward to participating in that process,” said Gillespie. “While there are many needs a couple of immediate needs would possibly be additional classrooms at South Macon School and deployment of Broadband in Macon County.”
Commissioner Gary Shields also wants education to be a focus of the plan as well as ways to improve the detention center.
“I am interested in the CIP planning because this is the opportunity to listen to an outside group that will assist us in developing a plan and prioritizing,” said Shields. “I am interested in the ‘Stepping Up’ program where incarceration facilities can be viewed as a place where people with drug addictions can get help. As the county debt is paid off, land for a new high school should be pursued while developing plans for a new high school.”
According to Roland, more details about the CIP will be released after the firm that will be conducting the survey is selected. The county currently has proposals for two different firms, which have two different approaches on how to move forward.