Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer

While the Macon County Board of Commissioners agree on very little as an entire board, heading into the 2018-19 budget process commissioners have each stated they want to focus on the new Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and developing long range goals for infrastructure in Macon County.

Commissioners approved $30,000 in last year’s budget to hire Davenport and Company — a consulting firm charged with reviewing capital needs in Macon County. Commissioners were presented with the final document during a budget meeting in February and have spent the last few weeks reviewing the firm’s recommendations.

The consulting firm worked alongside department heads in Macon County to evaluate capital needs of county facilities and to prioritize projects based on necessity and funding. In total, departments across the county identified $144,619,865 in projects between now and 2028. The 10-year plan looks at needs in the county from $72,297,200 in capital projects for Macon County Schools to nearly $9 million for an expansion of the Crawford Senior Service Center.

As it stands, the CIP is just a document. Macon County Manager Derek Roland reiterated several times that until commissioners vote to allocate funds for any of the projects identified in the proposal, the document is nothing more than a recommendation. Ultimately, what projects get completed as well as when, will be up to commissioners.

The next step in the process is for commissioners to finish reviewing the CIP and to work together to prioritize projects in the proposal. Roland noted that the possibility of projects coming to fruition depends on available funding, necessity, and timing. One way to help in the prioritizing process is for the county to complete a space analysis on county facilities.

“The CIP as it stands are recommendations from department heads,” said Roland. “The next step is to complete a space analysis on county facilities. Once we have that completed, it can be used as another assessment tool to see how to best to utilize space the county already owns.”

Roland said a space analysis is important before considering new buildings because if a department such as the board of elections has outgrown its space, moving that department to a larger facility such as the senior service center, and expanding a new senior service center, will help the county best utilize existing space without any disruption in county services.

Big ticket items 

The bulk of the nearly $145 million CIP lies in requests from Macon County Schools. The total request from Macon County Schools tops $72 million, with $60 million being proposed for a new Franklin High School.

This year, in addition to $7.3 million allocated to the school system for operational costs, Macon County provided the school district with $600,000 for capital outlay needs — $300,000 for infrastructure improvements and $300,000 for technology. Over the last several years, commissioners have allocated more and more funds to maintain the aging Franklin High School campus, all while deciding what is best for students. Over the course of the year, the school system has requested additional funds for unexpected projects at Franklin High School, most recently for issues within the vocational building when pipes burst mid year.

With an increase in needs at the facility, rather than continuing to repair problems as they occur, the CIP includes $60,000,000 to build a completely new facility in the coming years.

The CIP also includes $3 million for the expansion of South Macon Elementary, a project that has already been approved and is currently in process. A significant overhaul of Macon Middle School is also proposed to the tune of $2.6 million. The CIP also proposes continuing the annual $600,000 for technology and capital improvements over the next year, a $3.3 million commitment over the next 10 years if approved.

Aside from the Macon County Schools, the next largest request came from Southwestern Community College. SCC has requested $27 million for several projects including a new public safety burn building, which is already in the process with funds already committed.

Overcrowding at the senior service center has been a concern over the last few years, and if approved, the CIP includes $8,876,650 to expand the facility. The county regularly updates the county fleets for different departments and continuing with the rotation schedule, the CIP includes $600,000 annually over the next 10 years for new vehicles in various departments for a total commitment of $6.6 million.

The Macon County Airport request includes $15 million in proposed projects over the next few years which includes extending the runway and hangar development.

The Macon County Health Department identified more than $6 million in renovations to build a new health annex and to expand animal services.

While the entire CIP includes almost $145 million in projects, all of that isn’t necessarily county dollars. Several projects, from new schools to partnerships with SCC to airport renovations are eligible for grant funding or state dollars, which will offset the total project costs and be a contributing factor when considering approval and feasibility over the next 10 years, according to Roland.