Local government committee discusses future archive facility
At 5:30 p.m. Monday afternoon, prior to the legislative committee meeting, Dyer County Mayor Chris Young, as well as a large group of county commissioners made their way to the former Tennessee Soil Conservation office, which will be the future home of the Dyer County archives. Currently, the facility is being renovated through state grant funds allocated to the archive committee.
For some time now, archives have been stored in the small basement of the Dyer County Election Commission, which has posed numerous problems for volunteer archivists working diligently to preserve and store the records.
According to Young and archive committee member Steve Walker, the archive committee has saved approximately $36,000 in state grant funding for use on the project, and has currently spent $8,000 of those funds on remodeling the facility, leaving a mere $28,000 for future renovation.
However, more construction will be needed including structural and electrical updates, as well as the addition of new carpet, paint, plumbing, drywall, and the installation of LED lighting, all of which is expected to come with an attached cost estimated at $75,000-$85,000.
In a Legislative Committee held shortly after the tour of the future archives facility, Young proposed that committee members present the Dyer County Budget Committee with a proposal to borrow $50,000 necessary for the archive building’s renovation from Capital Improvement [Site Development] funds.
“Even if we land a project tomorrow there is no way that we would spend any of that money this year, so we are through with that money for this year,” stated Young.
According to Young, funds would be repaid to the Capital Improvement [Site Development] account by the archives annually, until the debt was paid back in full.
“Renovations are the only thing that we can use that money for, and we do want the archives to pay that money back,” added Young.
Legislative Committee Chair Benny Spain asked fellow members for a recommendation to move the matter before the budget committee for further discussion in regards to funding.
Raising questions about the issue of repayment was committee member Brandon Dodds, who inquired as to the length of time it would take for the funds to be repaid to the Capital Improvement [Site Development] account.
Walker and Young both stated that the archive currently receives roughly $18,000 a year in state funding, with more funds expected to come in this year.
“We will have to pay for the expenses of the building first,” stated Young, “Whatever is left over will go toward reimbursing Capital Improvement [Site Development].”
According to Walker, the archive requires expenses associated primarily with electricity and utilities, and is currently overseen by a volunteer staff.
“Once we have a mature archive, there will be some staffing issues. Right now we have volunteers. I don’t know how long that will last. I know in Jackson they have a full-time archivist, but we are not there yet by any stretch of the imagination, but eventually we will need more staffing,” said Walker, who also indicated that the annual funds received by the archive were indeed sufficient to hire an employee when the time comes.
Committee member Larry Shawver raised concerns over the total amount funds needed to perform renovations stating, “Do we not have estimations on how much all of this is going to cost besides just having a ballpark figure?”
Young replied to Shawver’s concerns stating that he was currently in the process of getting accurate figures on renovations, and that inmates would be providing much of the labor needed for the project.
Young and Shawver also discussed upcoming state mandates requiring county buildings to have handicap-accessible facilities.
“That means that we are also going to have to do some remodeling here (courthouse) because we are not up to code here,” stated Shawver.
“That’s correct,” replied Young, going on to say, “We are nowhere near where we need to be. … When Steve [Walker] and I first started looking at that building we had no clue what kind of shape it was in, or that it would require all that work, but I don’t like to do anything unless I can do it right the first time. It has nothing to do with building up the funds; this is capital outlay money to work on our buildings with. We just had four central units to replace at the Health Dept. We weren’t expecting that but we had to fix it. We fixed our dome, and got that right. We were hoping to get some painting done up there on the third floor and were able to get Steve’s [Walker] office painted around the holidays, but that’s all we have been able to do. We can’t afford to do anything else until we know that something else isn’t going to break.”
“If we can’t do [paint] all of the offices, why did we do Steve’s?” asked Shawver. “I have people asking me why we are spending so much money on a hundred-year-old building over there at the archives, and why we are spending money painting one person’s office?”
Young stated that moving the archives to the building was the best move for the county, as the building was already owned by the county, and with 2,400 sq. ft. of space per floor, would allow for future growth of the archive.
“It is the best location that we have for the archives without starting new construction,” stated Young.
Closing the meeting, committee member Debra Roberson reinforced the mayor’s proposal to allocate funds for the renovation stating, “We own that building. We need to put some money into it. How many people would even consider buying it right now, with it needing all that work? If anything, that building is attached to the county name, and we want it to be presentable to the people. It is in our best interest to invest in it.”
Members of the committee made a motion to bring the matter before the Dyer County Budget Committee.