Work moving forward on new senior center

LIVINGSTON – The work toward creating a new Livingston Senior Citizens Center took a major step forward Tuesday when Polk County Commissioners named a project administrator and hired an engineering/architectural firm to design the facility.

During their regular meeting in Livingston, commissioners named David Waxman as the project administrator and EHRA of Houston as the engineer/architect.

The county has received a $275,000 community development fund grant to develop the project aimed at modernizing the senior center in Livingston.

In other business during the meeting, Robert Belt of the accounting firm of Belt Harris Pechacek, LLLP, presented an “unmodified” audit report of the county’s finances for the year ending Sept. 30, 2015. He noted the unmodified label is the highest possible report the county could receive.

He noted that during the year, the county’s general fund balance – the money held in reserve at the end of the year – increased by about $319,000 during the year and ended at just over $7.4 million. Belt noted that bonding agencies like to see counties such as Polk with a minimum of about 25 percent of their total budget in the fund balance – an amount that would be able to cover the cost of operating the county for about 90 days.

Belt described that $7.4 million fund balance in the general and the $3.1 million in the road and bridge funds as “healthy” and praised the county for maintaining those levels.

The auditor noted a new requirement for governmental audits is to report the pension liability facing each entity. He noted that news coming out of the City of Houston regarding their pension liability is not good but said Polk County is in much better condition in this area.

The audit report listed pension liabilities for the county at almost $51.8 million with assets of over $49.7 million.

“This means you are 95 percent funded and that is excellent,” Belt said. “Places like Houston and Detroit have gotten into trouble because they are nowhere near that level.”

Belt noted that the 95 percent figure probably would fluctuate in the years to come as the interest rates paid on the pension investments goes up and down but said the county is in a strong position.

Other business

During the meeting, commissioners also:

-- Learned a company called First Solar, Inc. is looking at opening an operation in the Goodrich area of Precinct 1.

- Approved offers to purchase tax foreclosed property, including three lots in the Forester’s Retreat and Six Lakes subdivisions in Precinct 1, two lots in Chester 100 and a 6.7-acre tract in Precinct 3 and a number of lots in the Crystal Lakes, Holly Hills, Double A Lake Estates and Indian Springs Lake Estates subdivisions of Precinct 4.

-- Received quarterly reports on the warrant service programs from Pct. 2 Constable William “Bill” Cunningham and Pct. 3 Constable Ray Myers.

-- Appointed Assistant County Auditor Stephanie Dale to the Polk County Health and Safety Committee.