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Sheriff Harn stumps for new building

Board hires architect to draw plans

OREGON – A leaky roof, old wiring, and an inefficient heating-and-cooling system are just a few of the problems that plague the century-old building that houses the Ogle County Sheriff’s Department.

The problems have become serious enough that a new building is a better solution than repairing the old one, Sheriff Michael Harn said.

“There’s too much to fix. Twenty-three years ago this building was considered a temporary office,” he said. “If it was an easy fix, it would have been fixed a long time ago. It would be more cost-effective now to build a new building.”

The two-story brick structure at 103 Jefferson St. was built more than 100 years ago as the headquarters of E.D. Etnyre Co.

The county took over the building and adjoining property more than 20 years ago. Other buildings on site serve as storage and garage space, the county morgue, and the county Emergency Management Agency headquarters.

“Last year, we were having a meeting in the training room when the ceiling collapsed due to rain,” Harn said.

A new boiler doesn’t provide adequate and even heat, the sheriff reported, and the electrical wiring and the phone system need to be updated.

“Breakers and fuses blow all the time,” Harn said. “The wiring is as old as the building.”

The employee break room is in the women’s restroom, he added.

The biggest problem may be that the narrow doorways, maze of a hallways, and tiny restrooms do not meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

At the recommendation of the Long-Range Planning Committee, the Ogle County Board voted 17-5 on Nov. 20 to pay Saavedra Gelhausen Architects of Rockford $158,000 to design a new building, which could cost about $2.5 million to build, committee Chairman Dennis Williams said.

“Any money we put into the current facility is a disservice to the taxpayers,” Williams said. “That building has outlived its usefulness.”

Money would come from the Long Range Planning Fund, which has been earmarked for building projects and large capital expenditures, including construction of the judicial center in 2005 and the courthouse remodel in 2010.

The fund comes from fees that garbage companies pay to dump refuse in county landfills, about $3 million a year.

Harn said he envisions a new 10,000-square-foot, one-story building on the east side of the property.

Once the new building is completed, the old one could be demolished to make way for parking. The site is large enough to accommodate a new jail, too, at some point, he said.

“Everything we need for years to come could be right here.”

It will be up to the new board, which will be seated Monday, to weigh the cost and decide whether to approve the project. If approved, construction will not begin until at least 2014, Williams said.

Board passes balanced budget; new members to be sworn in Monday

OREGON – As one of its last official acts, the Ogle County Board last week approved a $44.9 million balanced budget.

All 24 newly elected board members will be sworn in on Monday.

Retiring board Chairman Jim Barnes of Oregon thanked the board for its service.

"I've enjoyed working with all of you," he said. "We haven't always agreed, but we got things done. When I became board chairman 2 years ago, I said I had two goals – to balance the budget and have more unity on the board. We've done that."

Taking office Monday will be 12 incumbents and 12 newcomers elected Nov. 6. Of the newcomers, Jerry Brooks of Oregon previously served on the board; he was Ogle County sheriff from 1970 to 1990.

Thanks to reapportionment, the entire board was up for election this year. 

Federal law requires that population-based district boundaries, from the U.S. Congress to local governing bodies, are redrawn after every census to make sure the representation of citizens remains equal. The law also requires that the population of each district be nearly the same.

Based on the 2010 census, the county is now divided into eight districts instead of four. Each new district will be represented by three board members.

Once seated, the new board will elect a chairman and vice chairman. Board members will also draw straws for the length of the terms they will serve.

Half will get 2-year terms, and half 4-year terms. All terms will be 4 years in subsequent elections until reapportionment occurs again ahead of elections in 2022.

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