Indianapolis architect firm RQAW presented a new round of preliminary designs Friday for the county extension office that will be located at the Jefferson County 4-H Fairgrounds.

The new plan, which has been scaled down in size, calls for a 4,700-square-foot building that carries an estimated cost of $678,000 to $787,000.

The cost estimates were broken into hard construction and soft costs - meaning furniture and interior material needs - at the Board of Commissioners' first meeting of the month.

"I think you're going to have a real competitive bidding process, which will take that down to the lower side," said Bret Dodd, chief design architect and planner for RQAW.

Commissioner Mark Cash cautioned that while the estimate is high, the board has seen bids fall 30 percent below the engineer's estimation.

RQAW redesigned the proposal after meeting with extension office workers and county officials last month.

The floor plan includes a single-entrance door and vestibule, some individual offices and a shared kitchen and meeting room for occupants - soil and water and extension office workers. The outside would include metal siding.

"The goal was to try to reduce the size of the building as much as we could to cut the costs," Dodd said.

"I don't know that we can make it any smaller and still functional for you," he said.

The kitchen size was cut almost in half and a few interior walls were removed.

"We're not opening a restaurant out there, so I don't know that we need that big of (a kitchen)," Commission president Tom Pietrykowski said.  

At its last meeting, the commissioners discussed moving the extension office closer to State Road 256, but also said that would require substantial work on sewer lines. The new design is still on the eastern end of the fairgrounds and set back from the road away from the sewer lines.

"We pushed it in the northeast corner of the fairground as far as we could," Dodd said.

The commissioners will take the proposal under advisement until the County Council gets a chance to study the designs.  

The plan calls for the bidding process to begin in April.

The designs will be brought to the County Council at its next meeting 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Also during Friday's meeting, Commissioner Robert Little said he has fielded a number of calls from residents concerned about the intersection at U.S. 421 and State Road 62.

The area has seen an increase in traffic because of the new King's Daughters' Hospital and North Madison Church.

County Engineer Jim Olson said INDOT is currently reviewing plans to establish a possible roundabout at the location. Until that time comes, Olson recommended contacting INDOT about lessening the number of lanes approaching the intersection to help with visibility for drivers.

The commissioners agreed to draft a letter to INDOT regarding the proposed changes.

In other business:

• The commissioners opened bids for liquid calcium chloride for dust control and liquid asphalt for chip and seal and patching.

For liquid asphalt by the gallon, Marathon Petroleum Company from Louisville submitted a bid of $1.98 and Terry Asphalt Material and Incorporated, of Hamilton, Ohio, submitted a bid of $1.86.

For dust control, Great Lakes Chloride Inc. submitted a bid of 94 cents per gallon.

• Duran Hall, one of the county's insurance agents, presented the commissioners with a coverage renewal contract for this year.

"I will tell you that the insurance industry is experiencing some rate increases as a whole," Hall said.

He said the industry has seen upwards of a 15 percent increase on property and about 8-to-10 percent hike for workers' compensation.

Excluding the workers compensation, the county had only three minor automobile claims last year for a total of about $4,800.

• The commissioners signed a contract with Howard J Barth & Associates for construction engineering and inspection on Bridge 1, located on Fifth Street in downtown Madison. The work is not to exceed $91,000.

The construction bid will occur sometime next month and the project is expected to start in May and take no more than six months.

• Humana, which handles the county's health insurance, notified the commissioners of its vitality wellness program. The effort allows employees to use a web-based program to log their health status and overall wellness.

And as part of the service, the insurance provider also is offering a health screening program for county employees.

There is no charge if the screening draws more than 40 employees. It will cost $58 per person if 40 or more patrons do not attend.

Anyone on the county's health insurance plan - there are 132 - can attend the screening, which likely will take place in April.

The commissioners said they will provide a sign-up sheet for employees to see if there is an interest.

• The commissioners approved three ordinance changes from the Jefferson County Health Department for tattooing, septic system regulations and food inspections.

The health department will switch to a risk-based assessment system for food inspections.

Health Department Administrator Tammy Monroe said the change will allow county food inspectors to spend more time at full-service restaurants because it dials back inspections for establishments with pre-packaged food to twice a year instead four times a year.

Full-service kitchens will still be regularly inspected four times a year.  

• The county will open credit cards for the technology department, highway department, auditor's office and animal shelter. Auditor Celeste Reed requested the change because she said some county workers have resorted to using their own credit cards.