Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

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February 18, 2014

Tax a big plus for courthouse

bporterfield@pvdemocrat.com — When voters approved a Garvin County sales tax back in 2007 they knew half the funding would go to help an ailing centerpiece — the county courthouse building.

The very same half cent tax again comes before voters, this time for renewal over the next seven years, during an election on March 4.

Although none of this new tax proposal earmarks any funding for the courthouse, officials stress the money has been monumental over the past few years in making some much needed upgrades to the county building in Pauls Valley.

Among them is County Clerk Lori Fulks.

“We changed a lot of stuff in the courthouse,” Fulks said.

“It has been like a night and day thing. It was like it was dirty before and now it’s all clean. Now it all works. It’s been great,” she said.

“It’s a drastic change over what this courthouse was before.

“If anyone wanted to see what was done I would love to take them and show them.”

Thanks to the tax funding a long laundry list of upgrades has indeed been made to the courthouse in the last few years. More are likely in the future even though no tax monies are earmarked for that specific purpose.

All the improvements have come in two phases.

The first included some big ticket items, like a new roof, various upgrades inside the building and a new elevator built on the north side of the courthouse.

A second phase focused on bringing the building up to current handicap-related standards.

“We were not ADA compliant,” Fulks said. “The old elevator was a lawsuit waiting to happen. If you had a wheelchair you had trouble getting into the old one.”

After all of the work in the courthouse, it’s described as being “great” and in good shape in the area of handicap accessibility.

Other changes came in the offices themselves as the county commissioners’ office was moved. That area gave more room to both the sheriff and district attorney offices to expand.

If the tax measure is approved next month a portion of the funding, 37 1/2 percent, will go into the county’s general fund. That money would then be used for various other county projects, including the possibility of even more upgrades to the courthouse.

“If we get the sales tax we could look at doing a third phase,” Fulks said.

That third phase could include a renovation of the courthouse’s fourth floor to address the issue of storage.

Another possibility is to place a new roof on the courthouse’s annex or even build a second story there as a way of expanding the jail, office space or much needed storage space.

According to Fulks, some agencies like the court clerk’s office are now forced to spend money from its regular budget for off-site storage.

Also being looked at is the exterior of the courthouse, complete with sandblasting and a filling in of the building’s mortar, along with additional improvements to the sidewalks.

There’s also the possibility of making improvements at the armory building in Pauls Valley’s Wacker Park, which is now the property of the county.

One project getting a serious look is the removal of an old boiler no longer being used in the courthouse.

“We would like to remove the old boiler because it has asbestos. Eventually, we’ll have to get it out for safety reasons.”

In the event the tax is turned down Fulks says county services would do down without the help provided by these additional revenues.

“If the tax fails everything would come to a halt,” she said about the progression of courthouse related upgrades.

“Anything on the courthouse would come to a halt without the revenue from this tax. It’s important to finish these projects.

“We’ve started saving for a third phase but don’t know if we can do it without this help.

“If this doesn’t pass we would need to figure out something else. We would just have to maintain.”

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