EATON — The Preble County Board of Elections (BOE) and the Preble County Commissioners continue to discuss the Preble County Courthouse and whether the building is functional for the BOE’s purposes.
Commission Office staff was recently tasked with compiling a timeline of all correspondence from the two parties.
According to a timeline the Commission Office prepared, BOE originally met with the commissioners on May 22, 2019 to share its intent to enter into a lease agreement for the Kramer Building at an estimated cost of $23,548 per year. On June 11, the commissioners notified BOE they rejected the proposed lease for the Kramer Building.
On July 23, 2019, the BOE provided the Board of Commissioners with an ADA report prepared by Secretary of State’s ADA Coordinator for courthouse and the old Visual Arts Center, located at 601 Hillcrest Dr. This report claimed the courthouse is unacceptable for BOE use due to many ADA problems. The BOE requested to move to the old art center. BOE asked for a written response by July 26 and threatened legal action.
On July 24, the Board of Commissioners provided response to the previous letter, requesting a one-on-one meeting the week of Aug. 5. BOE had Homeland Security in to tour the courthouse.
On July 25, BOE responded to the previous letter, agreeing to meet with Commission President Rodney Creech on Aug. 5. On July 31, the commissioners were advised to hire outside counsel regarding BOE and a resolution was passed authorizing the hire of outside counsel.
On Aug. 4, Commissioner Creech notified a BOE board member that he would be unable to attend the previously scheduled Aug. 5 meeting and asked the board member to notify BOE Chairman Lisa Bruns. On Aug. 5, the Commission Office received a letter from Bruns regarding the cancellation and method of notification.
On Aug. 7, the Commission Office sent a response letter to BOE regarding its inability to procure the building at 601 Hillcrest, due to Preble County’s existing lease agreement. On Aug. 8, another response letter was sent, this one to Lisa Bruns concerning the method used to notify her of the meeting cancellation. The letter stated, the commissioners were still willing to work with BOE on concerns.
On Aug. 15, Commission Clerk Kim Keller was provided with a copy of email correspondence between courthouse plaza engineer and the Secretary of State’s ADA Coordinator regarding his questions on plaza construction. On Aug. 16, Commission Office received an application from the Preble County Prosecuting Attorney requesting the firm of MicTigue & Columbo be hired as special counsel for BOE per a contract to be entered into with the commissioners.
On Aug. 21, the Board of Commissioners responded to an application for outside counsel to BOE, notifying the BOE currently has counsel available at no cost to county, but stating they may enter into agreement with outside counsel if they determine they have funds available in their budget. BOE provided a copy of Homeland Security review of courthouse.
On Sept. 9, the Board of Commissioners had a meeting with BOE regarding results of the Homeland Security review. Both boards toured BOE offices to view available space for securing new computer equipment BOE was set to receive. BOE was permitted to expand early voting area to entire first floor lobby area. On Sept. 11, commissioners received a letter from BOE’s attorney stating its position that correction of ADA issues and security findings would be cost prohibitive and requesting further discussion on the issues between BOE and the commissioners, or the BOE’s alternative would be to apply to Common Please Court for funds they believe necessary.
On Sept. 25, commissioners’ counsel sent a letter to BOE’s counsel advising the commissioners to accept offer to work together with BOE to develop a plan to improve services by BOE. Reply also included a report prepared by licensed engineer in regard to the ADA compliance issues brought up by Secretary of State’s ADA coordinator that addresses issues that need to be addressed and ones that are not required.
On Oct. 10, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose toured Preble County BOE’s offices and storage spaces. According to the Commission Office timeline, when questioned by BOE’s attorney regarding ADA and security issues, LaRose stated his team had visited previously and while tight, the board could live with the space they currently had. He said it is a local decision and should be amicably resolved between the BOE and commissioners.
On Oct. 14, commissioners received plans to address ADA parking areas and a ramp to the plaza — initial cost is estimated over $59,000. On Oct. 28, the plaza contractor is set to correct the plaza ramp. The new estimate for ADA parking lot is $49,469.50. Contract was set to be prepared to correct/provide additional ADA parking spaces, the work would require loss/move of parking for courthouse elected officials.
From Nov. 15 through Nov. 18, BOE hired outside contractor to perform air quality tests in their basement storage areas and fourth floor storage area, also lead paint testing in its office space and the fourth floor storage area without notifying commissioners. Testing was performed over the weekend by a residential resting firm. On Nov. 22, BOE sent email to Commission Office requesting installation of private internet line for its office.
On Nov. 27, the commissioners asked the BOE to remove desks and equipment from early voting — which ended on Nov. 4 — from the lobby area. On Dec. 2, the BOE met with commissioners to notify them about testing storage areas, with basement areas having elevated radon levels, and lead-based paint being found in the fourth floor storage areas and on a window sill in the BOE office. The BOE also notified commissioners that their fourth floor storage area was entered by unknown persons who cleaned the area of dirt and dust and that they have to notify the Secretary of State of the breach. Commissioners directed staff to find company to re-test entire basement area for radon.
On Dec. 3, commissioners sent BOE a memo okaying the request for private internet and approved starting the process, while asking the BOE to coordinate installation of line with Building Maintenance. On Dec. 9, the BOE sent a letter stating they had requested Building Maintenance to move the desks from the lobby. Commission staff moved one of the desks to the hallway of the BOE Office.
On Dec. 10, BOE sent a letter noting movement of desk, stating it was affecting accessibility to their office and requesting again that Building Maintenance move the desks. On Dec. 11, the desks were moved to the fourth floor by Building Maintenance. Also, the OEPA-listed radon testing company arrived and placed sensors to test the basement for radon. On Dec. 13 and Dec. 16, the BOE had the commissioners served with court summons to address its request for an additional $20,000 to be placed in the BOE budget for outside counsel.
On Dec. 16, the commissioners received a letter from the Secretary of State’s ADA Coordinator detailing changes he believes needs to be made to the county’s plans for an ADA parking area.
The Preble County Board of Commissioners and Preble County Board of Elections continue to discuss the situation and necessary changes.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH