County discusses new Rockford Senior Center building
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County discusses new Rockford Senior Center building
By Christa Jennings
The replacement of the “substandard” and “somewhat offset” handrails at the new Rockford Senior Center were a point of discussion during Tuesday morning’s County Commission meeting, ultimately resulting in the meeting being recessed until next week to further discuss the building. Photo by Christa Jennings
Tuesday morning’s County Commission meeting saw much discussion, especially pertaining to the new Rockford Senior Center to be located at the old school, which led to the meeting being recessed until next week for further discussion and consideration.
There were three items pertaining to the facility on Tuesday’s agenda. Two of them were approved with little discussion, but the third involved more discussion and ultimately caused the matter to be tabled.
After brief discussion, the commission unanimously approved a deposit of $750 for the water meter at the new Rockford Senior Center building, which will be in the old library of the old school, near the Rockford Event Center.
Additionally, the commission approved payment of $1,886 for signage and installation of the sign recognizing it as the Paul Perrett Senior Center Building.
“We want to dedicate that building to Paul because he worked so hard on it, and the commission approved dedicating it to him a couple meetings ago,” Commissioner Ronnie Joiner said during discussion. “Now we need to put the signage up there naming the building after him.”
Commissioner Unzell Kelley abstained from voting on that matter.
The commission went on to discuss potentially replacing the handrails at the new facility. Joiner said the building belongs to the county, but that the Town of Rockford has been making all the decisions regarding the facility.
He said when he went by recently he noticed the set of handrails installed looked “pretty substandard to what should be down there.”
Joiner said he mentioned it to the workers, and they tried to straighten them. However, he said they are in “such a mess” that they cannot be fixed.
“We need to pay a little bit more attention to what’s going on to our building down there,” Joiner said. “Even though this thing is kind of messed up with the way the grant was written and all that, but that building still belongs to us, and we need to put a little input to what goes on down there.”
Joiner mentioned that the roof is possibly incorrect, as well. He said it was his understanding that it is supposed to have a 4/12 pitch metal roof, but that it has a rubber roof on it.
“They didn’t ask us anything about changing it or anything. They just did it on their own,” Joiner said. “From here on out, I think we need to pay a little more attention to what goes on down there. They’ve got a brand new building with old windows in it, and the doors are rusted on it. I don’t know if they plan to leave them there or not. I can’t tell yet. We’ve got to find out what they’re going to do. But as a commission we need to start paying more attention to what’s going on to our building, and we need to have a little more input into what goes on down there.”
During ongoing discussion, he added, “The grant was given through the city, but it’s still our building. We own it. We’re going to be the ones ending up taking care of it when all of this is said and done. So, as a commission, we need to look at some of this stuff, and I think you’ll see what I’m talking about. Before we give the final OK of releasing anything on it, I think we need to have a say in it as a commission – not as me, as a commission. But I know what I’m looking at. I’ve been doing this kind of work for 50 years.”
“I agree with Commissioner Joiner,” Commissioner Kelley stated. “It is the commission’s responsibility, and the commission needs to weigh in on every decision that’s involved with the County Commission. …With the handrails, I did take a look at it. They do seem somewhat offset.”
Kelley then posed a question to county attorney John K. Johnson, asking if when the property was surveyed and deeded to the county if the legal description included the area for the walkway and handrails. Johnson confirmed that it did.
In further discussion, Joiner said that they need to get the engineer to look at it, adding that the handrails are “not done right” and that “they’re wrong.”
He said they need to get the engineer involved in it. Additionally, he suggested that someone needs to be a spokesperson for the commission to be able to talk to them and bring it back to the commission to make a decision on it, with the commission as a whole making the decision and not just one commissioner.
“We need to get in contact with the engineer and find out what he thinks about this because he has to inspect it, and it’s not up to speed,” Joiner added.
Kelley said that he agreed they do need to address the matter, but said he thought they should also try to get Rockford Mayor Scott White to come in and sit down with the commission to discuss it.
“They do have the grant, but we own the building, as you said, and own that area according to our attorney, so we do need to address it,” Kelley said. “At the same time, we need to communicate with the city and let them know that things that are being done or the contractor that’s being used maybe is not performing the scope to specifications, or if there were any specs.”
Joiner stated, “We need a copy of the plans, the specs and the contract in front of our eyes so we can look at it. We need all of that so we can look at it and make sure they followed what was supposed to be done. I think some of that stuff has not been done like it was agreed to in the contract. I remember a long time ago I looked at the specs, and I can vaguely remember some of that stuff, and I know some of it is not what it’s supposed to be. But we can’t tell until we look at the paperwork. …We made a mistake by not having that in front us to begin with and letting them handle it without us being involved in it.”
In further discussion, attorney Johnson voiced his agreement that the issue needed to be addressed and that the commission should be more involved with the remodeling of the building.
“The fact of the matter is, the county owns this property,” Johnson said. “The county has basically allowed the city to contribute funding for the remodeling and to be in charge of the remodeling of this building, but there’s never been a formal vote, to my knowledge, by the county to allow that. So it’s your building. You should take charge, and you should oversee what’s going on.”
Joiner mentioned that it is “unusual” the way the grant was done, with a city entity getting the grant to work on a county building. He added that he had no idea how that worked out, but that “that’s where [they] are.”
Kelley explained that the Town of Rockford went through the Community Development Block Grant city fund to get the competitive grant for the remodeling of the building.
“Because at the end of the day we fund everything totally for the Rockford Senior Center, unlike Goodwater, who pays for theirs,” Kelley stated. “This was sort of their way of contributing to getting a new senior center, which the seniors deserve, and I wholeheartedly support.”
Kelley added, “I agree with you; we need to start getting control of projects that are done by the county, especially that involve us, anything we have our name on, where this entire County Commission looks at it and makes sure the process moves forward in a manner where, if they’re doing work, they do it according to the specs and scope.”
After much discussion and debate, the commission agreed that the matter would need to be tabled. It also agreed to invite Mayor White and the contractor to attend next week’s meeting to discuss it further, as well as to ask for copies of the plan, contract and specifications.
With the commission agreeing to recess its meeting, the matter was tabled until the commission reconvenes Tuesday, June 15, at 9:30 a.m.
The remainder of Tuesday morning’s commission meeting will be covered later, following the conclusion of the meeting next week.