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County planning for future needs
new deh county commission cap improve equip plans pic
The Barton County Courthouse in Great Bend is one of the buildings county officials have in mind when they prepare their capital improvement and equipment replacement plans. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

 Consider them rainy day funds.

Each year come budget time, the Barton County Commission also addresses the county’s capital improvement and equipment replacement plans. These five-year plans outline what department heads and other officials see as likely expenditures in the upcoming years.

“These are not wish lists,” County Administrator Richard Boeckman told the commissioners Monday morning. These are anticipated needs that could be costly.

Through the budgeting process, the county transfers cash, as savings, to the plans. Currently, there is $2,418,325.85 in capital improvement and $2,088,987.71 in equipment replacement for a total of $4,507,313.56.

Although similar, the plans serve different functions. Both are revised annually.

Capital improvement is for projected maintenance and remodeling of county buildings, and major modifications to roads and bridges, Boeckman said. On the radar now are the possibility of a new $150,000 boiler in the courthouse, $40,000 in repairs to the Sheriff’s Office building and over $1 million in road overlays, totalling $1,632,000 if all is done.

In addition, there is the looming possibility that the pipes in the courthouse will need to be replaced. “They’re disintegrating from the inside out,” Boeckman said.

Equipment replacement ensures equipment costs are kept at a manageable level. Possible expenditures here are $350,000 for new voting equipment in time for the 2016 general election, $705,000 in work for the Road and Bridge Department and assorted computers, copy machines and vehicles, totalling over $1 million.

“This doesn’t mean all of this will take place,” Boeckman said. It has been a difficult budget year so items that can be put off may be delayed.

And, the commission must approve most expenditures and purchases out of these funds.

Having these reserves means the county can pay cash instead of borrowing money for high-cost projects, Boeckman said. As of now, the county has no debt. 

“This saves the citizens of the county money in the long run by not having to pay interest on loans,” Boeckman said. Having cash provides flexibility and the ability to respond quickly if necessary to an emergency because money is on hand.