KNOXVILLE — With exposed rafters come birds, and with birds come waste material. In the case of the Marion County Public Health building, it may pose a risk. The Marion County Board of Supervisors are seeking options to alleviate the problem.
Deliveries come into the entrance pictured and are carried into the Public Health building. Materials from the birds, including feathers, may be transferred inside, and get on the building's floors. Children often sit and play on the building's floors, while their parents receive assistance, which concerns Public Health Director Kim Dorn.
The supervisors received three bids to try to alleviate the bird issue. Each bidder submitted a different proposal at various costs. By the time the supervisors ended their discussion this morning, direction was given for all three contractors to submit bids for two different proposals.
"When we looked at the building, this wasn't an issue," Board Chairman Sam Nichols said of this new problem. The County purchased the building for $440,000, then invested an additional $729,000 to remodel the building before Public Health services were moved there.
"We were concentrating on the inside," Supervisor Jim Kingery said. He admitted that the bird problem was probably there, but may have been overlooked. "I can't imagine (the birds) came overnight."
"I've asked the staff not to use that door unless they absolutely have to," Dorn said.
If the board chooses to cover the rafters, or enclose the delivery area, the money would likely come from the non-departmental area of the budget. Kingery asked if money could be used from the Local Option Sales and Services Tax, but Auditor Jake Grandia advised against it.
"That takes away from your bigger projects," Grandia said. "I wouldn't advise using local option sales tax."
Regardless of where the money comes from, Supervisor Craig Agan is concerned about spending money. According to him, three people were laid off from Public Health. Dorn clarified that the job losses were due to a program change that required a change in staffing levels to meet the income. One other was released to avoid having Marion County tax dollars spent in other counties. The other was being paid through a grant, which ended.
"This should have been done at the time the building was done," Agan said. The building was purchased before Agan was elected to the board. However, as Nichols noted, candidate Agan was present at the board meetings when the purchase and remodel were discussed.
"It seems to me you were at a lot of board meetings, prior to election and you didn't say anything," Nichols said. He added that the money has been spent and there is no reason to rehash the past. Nichols noted that the budgets for employees and infrastructure are different.
"We need to look at overall expenditures," Agan said. Treasurer Denise Emal defended the purchase of the building and how it has been utilized.
"It's a wonderful facility and it's open to other County offices to use," Emal said. "I appreciate the opportunity to use that facility." The Treasurer's Office used it for the annual tax sale, and the Internet connection was better at Public Health than it was at the prior location.
"I was paying rent at the fairgrounds before," Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Anderson said. He now has an emergency operations center at the Public Health building.
The supervisors expect to have bids for the project at an upcoming meeting. For a full report on Monday's board meeting, pick up a copy of the Aug. 31 Journal-Express.