WILMINGTON — The Clinton County Board of Elections asked Clinton County Commissioners Wednesday for more space for the board’s equipment and staff. The commissioners took no action and asked the board to refine its request.
Elections board member Joe Daugherty began the meeting by saying the board needs “no less” than 6,000 square feet but would “ideally” have between 9,000 and 10,000 square feet, a loading dock and a backup generator.
Currently the board’s office, located in the Clinton County Courthouse, encompasses 2,000 square feet.
Daugherty said new, larger voting equipment coupled with current spacing troubles were primary reasons for needing more space.
“We need what I call ‘surge space,’” Daugherty also said, adding that that’s why he believes 10,000 is ideal instead of the 6,000 square-foot estimate reached by Jay Peterson, the assistant director of the board. “We had a little disagreement among ourselves, so we’re giving you the range.”
After some discussion, the commissioners asked the board to determine exactly what it needs and will be satisfied with.
“I think the board of elections and the staff need to come up with” an exact square footage need, Curry said. “Right now, we’re at 6,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet. We can’t go out looking for a building with that range not knowing what you need and what are you going to be satisfied with.”
Daugherty emphasized that the board wants to work with the commissioners to solve the problem.
“We’re trying to work together to solve this problem,” Daugherty said. “We’re here just to say this is what we feel would be our optimum.”
Commissioner Pat Haley said the board of elections is “a major consideration” and said the commissioners need to coordinate everyone’s office space needs.
“If we’re going to make a move and have a domino effect, we should have a plan in place that we match up the space needs with the available space we have in the county,” Haley said.
“Most importantly, we want to make sure that we try to accommodate the voters, the general public, with regards to access and ease of voting,” said Commissioner Kerry Steed, who later added that he doesn’t think the county is positioned to add or build 10,000 square feet of storage and office space.
Clinton County Business and Economic Development Director Bret Dixon said building a space would be cost-prohibitive while purchasing larger, older buildings than needed would present problems with renovating, heating and cooling.
Dixon also said there is property for lease in the community that he said would be easy to find, easy to park at and would have storage area in the back for the board’s usage.
Earlier in the meeting, Steed suggested part of the county annex building, a space that would give the board about 5,000 square feet and would relocate the department of building and zoning and the coroner’s office.
“If we look at your current infrastructure, you’ve got storage units (miles away) … a very cramped office that you’re walking on top of each other, we have people that are voting in the hallways of the courthouse,” Steed said. “And when we look at the potential configurations of these spaces, it not only brings all of your storage together, it allows you a testing area, it allows you a meeting and training area, and it allows you that expandability.”
Daugherty said it simply isn’t enough.
“I’m sorry, it won’t work,” Daugherty said. “I couldn’t take that recommendation back to the full board and say, ‘This is adequate for our needs.’ I couldn’t do it.”
Daugherty also said he didn’t think voters realized the issues the board of elections’ staff faces, yet.
“But it’s getting harder and harder,” Daugherty said. “I don’t know how we’re going to tabulate next year’s (election) … with all this new equipment if we don’t have the space.”
In other county business, the commissioners met in executive session with Clinton County Prosecutor Rick Moyer to discuss employment or compensation of a public employee.
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.