I would like to take this opportunity to clarify a few points regarding Washington County’s recent purchase of the Crossroads Center building, and continue my practice of transparency and open government. I wish to express the facts on why I voted to purchase the building.
Because the previous administration was delinquent in addressing structural damage and crumbling infrastructure in the county complex, we are at a “crossroads” and must make a decision. According to engineering reports in the previous administration, it would have cost far less to address the structural issues back then. According to an April study by Dawood Engineering of Canonsburg, the parking garage for Courthouse Square is in poor condition, and requires “immediate attention to prevent any serious occupant injuries or structural failures from occurring” and must be addressed now.
Learning that the cost to fix the garage was $10 million, I, along with commission chairman Diana Irey Vaughan, wanted to know what other expenses were going to come up in the coming years, so we had a facilities study done.
I find it purposefully misleading and irresponsible that Commissioner Larry Maggi has said that the repairs Courthouse Square needs can be done adequately for $1 million and not present any corroborating documentation. According to a study conducted by the board of commissioners, the costs of repairing Courthouse Square would be close to $13 million. No business would spend $13 million to fix an asset worth $4 million and, at the end, that asset would not increase in value.
And clearly, the county shouldn’t either without looking at all other options, and that’s what we did.
Irey Vaughan stated, “As good stewards for the taxpayers, there is no way I can justify spending $10 million to fix a parking garage that holds just over 300 cars, on a building that is only worth $4 million, that is a terrible investment for the county.”
With a Band-Aid solution of $13 million to repair our current building, we chose to look at other options. Crossroads Center conveniently sits across from the courthouse, which made very practical sense, and met our space needs. Then, we conducted the due diligence process and did a cost-benefit analysis before we made any decisions. We also invited the media to tour our building to see for themselves the issues associated it.
The allegation that we seek to grow county government could not be further from the truth. Since taking office, this an issue I have faced that could have been resolved by not “kicking the can down the road.” As a Washington County commissioner, it is my job not to “kick the can” but to provide good and sound government, now and into the future.
I want the residents of Washington County to know that I take spending taxpayer funds extremely seriously, and will only vote for expenditures that I believe are in the best interest of the county. And, after seeing the enormity of the structural deficiencies in the Courthouse Square parking garage, the foundation of the building, something had to be done.
Let’s be clear: these deficiencies didn’t just appear. They have been in the making for years, and the previous administration’s willingness to turn a blind eye and avoid a difficult decision has caused the current administration to step up, evaluate, do a cost-benefit analysis and make that difficult decision.
We are not planning to grow the size of county government, but resize the space for our employees. Currently, we have five to six employees sharing one office in our children and youth services office, which compromises the confidently with those clients. It also creates and unsafe and sometimes hostile work environment for our staff. We moved the district attorney’s to the Caldwell Building in downtown Washington, but that did not solve county’s space issues or storage requirements.
Moreover, other industries have the luxury of working from home. Few of our employees have that option, because we provide services that most directly interface with the public.
Lastly, with the increased space the Crossroads Center affords, we will be able to accommodate and keep all current tenants. The building will actually become a convenient, one-stop shop for taxpayers by providing county, state, and federal services.
Any resident is welcome is to review a copy of a facilities study and appraisal in Washington County commissioners’ office. They will see firsthand that the county was at a “crossroads” and made the right turn.
Nick Sherman is a Washington County commissioner.