Local Government Agencies Face Storage Crises

Posted on Feb 22 2010 - 9:49am by Winnie Hsiu

Storage is becoming a problem for local government in many parts of the U.S. In the last week, several local government storage problems were reported in the media:

  • In Gaylord, Minnesota, the Sibley County Sheriff’s office is considering building its own storage shed to store equipment and vehicles for the Sheriff’s Office and the Environmental Services Department. Construction of the shed, which will be 100 feet by 48 feet, will be paid for by Driver Awareness Funds from the Sheriff’s Office. The shed is meant to protect valuable equipment and vehicles from damage by vandals. 
  • The Sheriff’s Office in Santa Rosa County, Florida, bought a mobile command unit and disaster response trailer shortly after Hurricane Ivan passed through in 2004. Initially, Terhaar & Cronley Property Co, the owner of a vacant warehouse, donated the warehouse to be used for storage of the new equipment. But it is becoming difficult for Terhaar & Cronley to pay the property taxes ($8,948.46,

    or about $745 per month) on the warehouse, and the company has asked the Sheriff’s Office to pay for the property taxes and insurance. Currently, the county leases storage space, at the rate of $3,500 per month, for its emergency response supplies, which the Sheriff’s Office says it could make room for in the Terhaar & Cronley warehouse. This morning, Sheriff Wendell Hall went before the Santa Rosa County Commissioners, to present the idea that sharing space with the Sheriff’s Office would help both agencies to save money. 
  • In Ozark, Missouri, the Christian County Library has run out of space for its books. The library has pulled more than 1,500 books off its shelves and put them into storage, but this means that people cannot check out the stored copies. According to Library Director Mabel Phillips, the library needs a new building, but that would require a property tax levy of 25 cents for every $100 of assessed property value. While raising taxes adds a new financial burden for county residents, Phillips says that they depend on the library too much to do anything else. “They are doing online education, they are filing for unemployment, they are using the Internet here that they had to give up at home,” Phillips said, explaining the many ways that Christian County residents use their library. “We also have a lot of people trying to save money, using the library instead of buying books, instead of going to movies.” If the tax increase goes through, though, Ozark residents will share the newer, larger library that is built with residents of nearby Nixa and with smaller branch libraries on both sides of Christian County. 
  • The Franklin County Courthouse renovation, in Malone, New York, is causing an embarrassing storage problem for courthouse officials: the installation of advanced technology has caused the temperature in the courthouse records center to escalate up to anywhere from 113 to 121 degrees. The problem is temporary — it is caused by the installation and testing of more than 100 heat pumps, and a new computerized system that will allow the courthouse to regulate its thermostat more precisely. But County Clerk Wanda Murtagh worries about the message Franklin County taxpayers receive when they drive past the courthouse and see the doors and windows propped open in the dead of winter. She said maintenance workers open the windows at 6 a.m. in the hope that they can bring the courthouse temperature down to 95 degrees by the time the administrative staff arrive for work at 9 a.m. More importantly, Murtagh says, the high temperatures are jeopardizing the county’s fragile older documents. “I have documents starting in 1908,” she says, “that have to have proper temperature controls. I’m responsible for the paperwork for 32 departments and the overflow from courts and my office….The law was put in place in 1988 and ’89 that records have to be kept in a temperature-controlled environment at the required 60 to 65 degrees,” she continued. 

Perhaps, now that the self-storage industry is beginning to receive more recognition, local officials, especially those who need temporary storage while their agencies are constructing their own storage facilities or doing renovations, will begin to consider commercial storage as another possible solution for temporary storage needs.