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Capital projects committee to tour courthouse today

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By Jenny Hartley

The committee charged with determining the projects and a ballot question for voters on a proposed sales tax has begun its work.

The capital project sales tax committee meets today at 5 p.m. in the conference room on the second floor of the County Administration Building, 101 N. Main St.

The committee will tour the Lancaster County Courthouse today. It will also begin taking up proposals from other county and municipal officials in the next few weeks.

The committee's priority is the almost 200-year-old Lancaster County Courthouse, which officials say is in poor shape to hold court in modern times.

Committee members have until the end of July to decide on the projects to be included in the bond referendum to be held during the November general election.

County Council will have the final say on the ballot question and projects included.

If voters approve the sales tax, it would go into effect in May 2009. The project or projects must go to the voters for approval, since the county is unable to borrow the large amount it would take to build new facilities, such as a courthouse.

The committee met for the first time June 11.

Committee member Dave DeBruycker said it's important for the county to have a modern court facility to show to prospective business and industry that Lancaster County is progressive. Stevens Wilkinson, a Columbia architectural firm, will have a cost estimate for a new courthouse soon.

County Administrator Steve Willis said county staff has "guess-timated" the cost of a new courthouse to be $22 million. He said County Council has suggested that only the courthouse be included in the referendum.

If too many projects are included, it could turn off voters, council members have said.

Other committee members are Charlie Harrell, David Kellin, Keith Deese, Larry Durham and Joe Ramsey. The committee elected Harrell as its chairman and Kellin as vice-chair at its June 11 meeting.

Contact senior reporter Jenny Hartley at jhartley@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1151