Overwhelmed by the high cost of preliminary designs for a new Jefferson County extension office, the Council County on Tuesday pursued other options for constructing the proposed office at the fairgrounds.

Bret Dodd of RQAW, the Indianapolis firm handling the designs, presented the newest plan to the council that would have had a price tag of more than $600,000.

Rather than follow the proposal, the council agreed to go with an outline of an earlier design by RQAW. That draft proposed a building of about 2,900 square feet, nearly 2,000 square feet less than the most recent design.

Council president Bill Hensler said he wanted to see more input on the local level to avoid a continuous back-and-forth with RQAW and to not prolong the process. The project started in February 2011 and has been redesigned several times.

"I think we're spinning our wheels by continuing to do this," Hensler said.

The council said the extension office has been moved around the county several times over the years. The plan was to find the permanent home for extension workers and include the soil and water employees in the office.

The county pays about $12,000 in rent each year for its soil and water office. The idea is to combine the offices and use the rent money to pay on the new structure.

The most recent design, which came in at about 4,900 square feet, called for separate offices meant to house soil and water workers and extension office staff, a kitchen and a conference room.

When presented to the council Tuesday, the board never entertained a motion to accept the design.

"When we started talking about this, didn't we start talking about $300,000?" said councilmember Laura Boldery. "And now it's doubled."

"The average taxpayer would raise their eyebrows about paying this much for one office," added councilmember Keith Gaffney.

Each council member said they were supportive of the project and understood the education the extension office brings to the community.

"I for one, I'm a big proponent of it, but I'm also realistic. We can't do this today," councilmember Larry Wynn said.

To build the office, the county must first survey the land and obtain a lease for the property, which is just under 1 acre on the northeastern end of the fairgrounds.

The property on which the building is proposed is deeded to the fair board. County Commissioner Tom Pietrykowski, attending Tuesday's meeting, said the county could arrange a 99-year lease.

Hensler said RQAW could have new designs available sometime next month.

Also at the meeting, the council agreed to allocate $500,000 of the county's Economic Development Income Tax fund this year for county repaving needs. The highway department had made the request last month.

During paving season, the county focuses on roads with the lowest ratings - which are ranked on a scale of 10 to 100, with 10 being the lowest. The lowest rated roads in the county have a rating of 20, Olson said.  

Boldery said the CEDIT fund has enough money to cover the expenditure this year.

In other business:

• The 911 advisory board will continue to meet once a month to discuss standard operating procedures for the switch to central dispatch.

"Of course, the big thing that we're working on right now is the budget," reported 911 Director John Hendrix.

He said the committee is still working out personnel and insurance costs for the county and city of Madison.

Hendrix said the goal is to finish the preliminary budget by May or June and bring the figures to the County Council. The timeframe would allow the board to review the finances surrounding the switch during its regular budget sessions.

The state mandated consolidation of 911 services must take place before Jan. 1 of next year.

Because of grant funding and changes to the 911 funding formula to Indiana counties, Wynn said the county will have more concrete numbers to base its decision on this year.

"We're going to be much better from a money standpoint than we were the first time around," he said.

• The council voted to allow Health Dept. Administrator Tammy Monroe to spend $8,200 to upgrade the health department's phone system.

The current system dates back to when the building was constructed. The $8,200 would come from state funds and not from county funds.