Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron has announced that the county has ended its plans to purchase the over-budget former State Farm Operations Center.

Ketron gave the update last week during the Public Safety Committee Meeting.

The full county commission approved a budget of $25.5 million to make the purchase in July, but the mayor said the price point JDM Properties had requested had far exceeded that amount.

“He wanted somewhere between 80 and 90 million (dollars),” said Ketron referring to the company’s executive CEO. “I told him we were out.”

Instead Ketron plans to combine that money with the approximately $28 million left over in the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Funds stimulus package to begin building the six public health and safety buildings in rural parts of the county.

The areas to receive those emergency service facilities are Almaville, Christiana, Kittrell, Lascassas, Rockvale and Walter Hill.

The cost estimate to complete all six buildings was initially quoted at $4.5 million to $5.4 million each, according to Ketron.

“That was back in the summer and, of course, supply-chain issues, prices on steel, prices on lumber, prices on everything has escalated just in the last six months,” he said.

Now the cost estimate is $5.3 million to $5.4 million per building not including costs associated with radio systems and other equipment, which the mayor said is essential due to the emergency services purpose of the sites.

Ketron said the county IT department has determined that it will be more expensive for the first location and less expensive moving forward. The first location would be about $300,000 and drop down to $150,000 for each remaining location.

Instead, the county is looking at taking on four of the buildings in Kittrell, Lascassas, Rockvale and Walter Hill with two contractors: Rock City and American Constructors.

Ketron said the county is waiting to receive a final cost from the American Constructors to decide if it would be best to work with one or two.

The sites in Almaville, which has run into soil issues, and Christiana would be put on hold until next June when the second $32 million in COVID-19 relief money becomes available.

Commissioner Joe Gourley suggested prioritizing the facility locations based on which does the most work, commenting on the efforts of Almaville’s volunteer fire department.

“I just don’t want a commitment out of this body to make sure that they don’t get slighted, and that area doesn’t get slighted because we’re right there, a half a mile from I-840,” said Gourley.

The mayor said he wants to provide quicker emergency response times to residents in rural communities by building all six facilities.

EMS Director Carl Hudgens said a temporary crew could come out to cover the duties of two facilities if they were “move-in ready” today.

“On the EMS side we have time to absorb. We don’t have to hire a mass bunch right off the bat,” Hudgens said. “It’s going to be a little painful on us, but we can stand the pain until we can take our time, get the best qualified people I want for EMS to work at these stations.”

Commissioner Pettus Read also said Fire Chief Larry Farley had applied for a grant to take on 30 firefighters.

Commissioner Jeff Phillips made the motion to move forward with the construction of four buildings up to $28 million.

The motion carried unanimously to be passed on to the Budget, Finance and Investment Committee and eventually the full commission in December.

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