Committee members discuss county office space issues

Published 8:14 am Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Star Photo/Abby Morris-Frye Commissioner Ray Lyons, chair of the building and grounds committee, reports to the committee on progress being made to improve space issues at the Carter County Health Department.

Star Photo/Abby Morris-Frye
Commissioner Ray Lyons, chair of the building and grounds committee, reports to the committee on progress being made to improve space issues at the Carter County Health Department.

Members of the building and grounds committee looked to the future Tuesday evening as they discussed improvements to county buildings and services, including the possibility of moving two county offices out of the courthouse and into their own spaces.
Chairman Ray Lyons opened the meeting by updating the committee on progress being made at the Carter County Health Department.
During the January meeting, the full commission approved allowing the health department to hire an architect to design plans for renovations to help ease overcrowding and improve the department’s ability to serve clients.
Lyons reported that he, County Mayor Leon Humphrey and Health Department Director Caroline Hurt met with architect Robert Reedy of the Elizabethton firm of Reedy & Sykes on Monday and signed an agreement with the firm.
“The main thing was to try to get some more utilized space out of what he’s got to work with,” Lyons.
County Road Superintendent Roger Colbaugh is still working to correct a drainage issue at the property, Lyons said.
Following the update, the committee moved on to items of new business, including a recent tour of some county facilities taken by some members of the committee.
Several members of the committee expressed concerns with the current Emergency Management Agency and its Emergency Operations Center, located on the second floor of the courthouse.
“If a disaster hits today, I don’t know how we are going to get all the people we need in there,” Lyons said.
The EOC is a small workroom space inside the EMA office. In the event of a large-scale emergency in the county, such as a flood or other natural disaster, emergency service officials and department heads would need to gather in the operations center to coordinate a response with all involved agencies.
“Ever since we visited, that has been on my heart,” committee member Willie Campbell said. “These guys have nowhere to work.”
Moving the EMA office as well as the EOC out of the courthouse has been considered before, Humphrey said. At one point, he said, the idea of moving the office and operations center into the new 911 Communications Center had been discussed.
Carter County 911 used grant money to purchase their new building, which Humphrey said has additional space not currently being used by 911.
“That would seem a better fit, to have the EMA next to 911,” committee member Al Meehan said.
Ronnie Trivett, who was sitting in for an absent Beth Depew, made a motion to invite the Carter County 911 Director to attend a meeting of the committee to discuss the possibility of moving the EMA and EOC to their facility. The motion passed unanimously.
Members of the committee also discussed a possible use for the old 911 facility, which is owned by the county. When committee members toured that building, Lyons said Administrator of Elections Tracy Harris and Election Commissioner Paul Souder accompanied the group on the tour. They expressed an interest in moving the Election Commission from the courthouse to the old 911 facility, Lyons said. This would not only increase the space for the department but also provide easier access during elections.
The Election Office is currently located on the second floor of the courthouse. Lyons said this has caused some concerns about access to the office for disabled persons.
Several committee members noted that during periods of early voting, traffic at the courthouse can be heavy which can interrupt the operations of other offices.
At one point, Humphrey said, the Carter County Sheriff’s Department had also expressed an interest in using the building as a training center but he was unsure if they were still interested.
Members of the committee voted to have Harris and representatives of the Election Commission as well as representatives from the Sheriff’s Department attend a committee meeting to discuss the possible use for the building.
In other business, the committee also voted to have Humphrey get estimates for the installation of automatic door openers at the courthouse to improve access for persons with disabilities. This move came after committee member Randall Jenkins said a citizen had approached him about difficulties getting into the building.

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