JEFFERSON — The Marion County Commissioners Court met Monday, making several decisions on the use of buildings, particularly Kellyville Community Center and the temporary housing for county offices at 119 West Lafayette.
The court was set to make a decision on the reopening of Jefferson’s Kellyville Community Center to the public after being closed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but decided to table the action item, once again, to gather information on policies regarding alcohol consumption at the property.
“We may need a policy for alcohol,” suggested Pct. 4 Commissioner Charles Treadwell.
Treadwell said the rules have required renters to hire an off-duty officer if they plan to have alcohol at the facility; however, he’s noticed people skirting around it.
“If you plan to have alcohol you’re supposed to have an off-duty officer there. A year or so ago, it was a Saturday and I was checking roads and I just went by there and I noticed there was a pickup outside,” he said. “Well, there were people coming out getting drinks out of the back of the pickup and going back into the building… so I guess they figure this is the way to get around that, because they didn’t have alcohol inside of the building.
“I don’t know if that’s OK or not,” said Treadwell. “I just know that that seemed like a way to get around it.”
County Judge Leward LaFleur said they’ll table the item, for now, to allow him to review the policies. He noted that they tabled the item at the court’s last meeting to consider potential cleaning fees before reopening it to the public. The center has been closed since March 2020 due to the pandemic.
“Last time we tabled this, we spoke with the sheriff about some sort of cleaning fee, and he has stated a $100 deposit would suffice to send folks out there to disinfect that building after each use, which doesn’t have any bearing on the cleanliness or anything like that, it’s strictly to be disinfected after each use,” LaFleur said, giving an update.
In other business, the court approved to move the tax assessor-collector’s office to the 119 West Lafayette building, which was formerly used as temporary housing for county offices during the renovation of the 1913 historic county courthouse.
LaFleur said he thinks it was a wise decision for the prior administration to purchase that building for county purposes. Now that it’s vacant, he said it needs to be utilized.
“The county still has a tangible asset; the taxpayers still have a tangible asset,” he said. “Now we have the question: ‘What do we do now?’ We’ve got a tangible asset sitting empty.
“With the issues we’re having in our jail, I think that moving some folks around, moving some offices around would be a good idea for the taxpayer,” he said.
Commissioner Treadwell concurred, stating that the county needs to start considering future plans for the jail, in the event it needs expanding. Since the tax assessor-collector’s office currently shares a wall with the jail, moving the tax office to another facility would help free up any space if the need for jail expansion arises.
“The tax office connects to the jail that’s separated by some walls. This will free up some room in the courthouse annex,” Judge LaFleur explained to the News Messenger. “We want to give them some more elbow room and go from there.”
He said in discussions with the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, the Commission advised that the county would need to spend an estimate of $9 million on a new jail facility. Interest would drive the cost up to approximately $13 million, which would be too much of a burden for taxpayers, county officials said.
Thus, “we’re just looking at ways to expand the jail at its current location versus putting a $13 million burden on the taxpayers,” said LaFleur.
“It’ll cost us $13 million, which comes up to $57,000 a month for 20 years,” said Treadwell. “We only need eight beds. We could possibly do an addition over there and it could be something that the public could be doing through the local bank, in-house, possibly, a lower fee and not have to get all these people involved that would be a burden on the taxpayers.
Treadwell said they will designate the left side of the Lafayette building for the tax office to free up space to potentially be utilized for other county purposes, if the need arises.
“Right now there’s three times the office space she has now,” said LaFleur. “We’re trying to look down the road a little bit.”
Karen Jones, tax assessor/collector, proposed moving her office to the Lafayette address the week of May 17.