Commissioner take comment on courthouse expansion

Madison County commissioners held their weekly meeting Tuesday between the Alder Fire Hall and Sheridan Town Hall to facilitate public comment on plans to expand public offices at the courthouse in Virginia City.

The plan rises from the need for more accessible public facilities as well as increased storage space for county records.

While the county is looking for the best way to expand public offices and keep the taxpayers happy, Commissioner Dave Schulz saed they are working proactively to address the issue.

“We have an obligation to make every reasonable effort to help our citizenry access every aspect of our public facilities,” Schulz said.

In Alder, library board trustee Janet Doornbos proposed the construction of an archives repository in the basement of the Thompson-Hickman County Library. The board is asking the county to contribute approximately $33,000 to the $650,000 project, while the remaining funds would come from grants and private donations.

“Supporting the library and their archives at this point is the best choice because the records that the county offices have coincide with the records that we have,” Doornbos said. “So it would keep people from going from place to place.”

The project would be a win-win situation for the county because it allows all county records to be archived in the same location without significant cost to taxpayers. While another proposal suggested further additions behind the existing courthouse, commissioners determined there would not be enough left over space for future expansions.

At the meeting in Sheridan, members of the public questioned the commission’s progress in terms of putting their plan into action.

The commissioners emphasized that they want as much public feedback as possible before initializing a project of this size because of the high level of accountability, and to ensure there are no doubts as to whether or not the county used the best process to complete the project. They also want to make sure they have the full support of taxpayers.

Commissioners also discussed the Sheridan waste water project and the funding it lost when Governor Brian Schweitzer line-item vetoed Treasure State Endowment Program funds for the project earlier this year.

They decided to establish a legal fund not to exceed $5,000 to challenge the governor’s realignment of funds through veto powers as related to HB 351. While there is no legal precedent that guarantees that Sheridan can claim the lost grant money, Mayor Dean Derryberry said there’s no denying the town is struggling to complete the project that was originally mandated by the Department of Environmental Quality.

“We’re working now to find avenues to replace that money and also try to find avenues to reduce costs on the project,” he said.

Also during the meeting in Sheridan commissioners passed a motion to move forward with a petition to annex four properties from the Twin Bridges fire district into the Sheridan fire district. They scheduled a hearing on the issue for Aug. 30.

Upcoming county commission meetings will take place Aug. 17 in Twin Bridges, Pony, Cardwell and Harrison to take additional public commentary on the office expansion plans.

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