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From the Desk of County Commissioner
 Marty Qually

(8/2016) In 2011 my fellow county auditors, Glen Hartzell and Barbara Weikert, shared a concern that the County needed to find a way to reduce their office rental costs. This month Adams County government has finally found a way to reduce office rents and create a more cost effective and efficient way to run government.

When this Board of Commissioners took office in 2012, we pledged to reduce County rents. Our plan was to allow our leases for Children and Youth Services, Domestic Relations, the court's Department of Operational Services and the Department of Probation Services to expire and move the offices into one facility. We would then use funds to make mortgage payments instead of lease payments. After thorough site reviews by an independent commission, it was decided that the County should build a new facility on County land adjacent to the 911 Center in Straban township.

During this process it was also determined that the staff of the Mental Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (MH/IDD) of York and Adams, which serve Adams County should be moved into this new facility. Their offices currently are housed in Hanover, PA, which is located in York County. Moving MH/IDD offices into Adams County would mean for the first time in decades that we would have mental health case managers in our county. Due to expensive land development costs, impact fees, and additional costs to include MH/IDD offices, it was necessary to not approve this project. While we still believed that this new facility would improve operational effectiveness and that it had to include MH/IDD offices, the courts and the Commissioners withdrew their support for the project, due to excessive costs to taxpayers.

Not to be deterred, we continued to find ways to make this good idea better. In 2015 it came to our attention that the vacant Herff Jones building on Boyds School Rd. could solve our leasing concerns and offer even greater potential than we had initially imagined. Our immediate concern was that the property was too large, so while the cost was reasonable at $2.2 million, we needed to be efficient with our use of space. We needed to determine what other offices and uses made sense for this new property. Three departments came up with uses for the property that added some complexity to the project, but in my opinion added even more efficiency and long term cost improvements.

The Court of Common Pleas recommended that we co-locate two neighboring Magisterial District Judges' offices into this building. In moving offices together we would be able to drop the lease we currently pay for Judge Beauchat (Cumberland Township) and sell the offices of Judge Harvey (Gettysburg). In selling Judge Harvey's office we would both remove a property from our care that has outlived its usefulness to us, but also potentially put this property back on the tax rolls for the Borough of Gettysburg. The co-location of district offices requires approval by the Pa State Supreme Court. I encourage everyone to attend a public hearing being hosted by the Adams County Court of Common Pleas at the Adams County Courthouse on Baltimore Street at 6 p.m. on August 3rd to gather public input on this proposed change.

The second department to approach us was our Information Technology Department (IT). Recently, Adams County updated and increased our computer servers in order to modernize and create a more stable IT system. One of the assets of the old Herff Jones building was an excellent server room, much better than the small closets that we employ in the basement of the current courthouse. Compound this with very limited office space for our IT staff and we felt it appropriate to include moving this department to the new facility. By moving the IT offices we not only guarantee future room for their department, but we free up space in the courthouse for other offices needs.

After months of architectural review and hard work on July 20th Adams County finally received bids from contractors to begin the renovation phase of the Human Services Building project. This was followed by an equally important meeting with County bond council on July 21st. In a 24-hour period we received the best news possible for this project. The construction bids were lower than we had been anticipated and totaled about $6 million. Likewise our interest rate came in lower than anticipated at just under 3%.

When all is said and done there will be more expenses to this project, such as the $2.2 million purchase price, security equipment, a new telephone system, contingency costs, and new furniture. Many of these costs will be offset by State grants and other revenue sources, which have increased since the inception of their addition to this office building. At the end of the day most of the additions to this project, which many feared would put it over budget, brought with them revenue streams or future operational savings which offset increases. Future savings will be further realized by no longer having to pay escalating leases and efficiencies on operations.

So I will end this discussion with where I began by thanking those who came up with this idea and adding to it a thanks to everyone who adding value to a good idea and made it better. Many people worked very hard to create a project that would save taxpayers money and would improve government efficiency. While this project still needs to be shepherded to its final conclusion, I could not be more pleased by where we are today and more honored to have been a part of this process.

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