The residents of Clay County have an important decision to make on the June 8 ballot. The question on the ballot is the Clay County Commission’s plan to issue $41 million in bonds to pay for a completely new courthouse, jail and law enforcement center to be built somewhere in Vermillion. We agree that the county needs an updated jail and law enforcement center, but a new courthouse would mean abandoning our 109 year old historic courthouse, which would be a mistake.

The June 8 bond issue will require increased taxes on every property for the next 30 years. If we must pay more taxes, let’s make sure we are getting the best plan possible. Let’s make sure we are planning for the future, while honoring our past.

We believe there are several serious objections to approving this bond issue.

• Why were no public hearings held to determine what the citizens of Clay County wanted until after the decision to build all-new at a remote location was already made?

• Why did the county ignore the original recommendations of the architects it hired who determined that the historical courthouse is in relatively good condition for its age and has many years of life remaining if maintained?

• Why did they also ignore the original recommendation, that it would be less expensive to restore the historical courthouse than to build new?

• Do we need a new courthouse that is twice the size of the current building?

• Isn’t it important to preserve our beautiful historic buildings such as the current courthouse?

• Is “repurposing” the historic courthouse to some other use isn’t realistic, considering the county’s inability to identify an entity interested and able to pay for improvements?

• With only a few days to go before the election, why are the County commissioners still unable to tell us where a new courthouse complex would be built and what it will look like?

We are asking Clay County voters to turn down this bond issue until such time as these concerns can be realistically answered. We have proposed other alternatives which we believe would be significantly less expensive but the county has not addressed them.

(1) comment

VoiceforAll

I can't answer all these questions, but if anyone who reads this that has not been inside the Clay County courthouse should know as well, there are wires running all over the office walls to try and accommodate the new technologies that have occurred in the last 109 years, and they are ugly and appear to be a managing nightmare, my understanding is that the walls are so thick it is nearly impossible to run wires and updated HVAC to the offices and the electrical system is outdated as is the HVAC, so those inefficiencies are costing tax payers every day. The bathrooms are atrocious, they are small and several of them do not meet ADA requirements, and I may be mistaken but I think there are only a couple bathrooms for women in the whole courthouse, I may be mistaken but I can assure you they are not adequate for those that need them. Sure the courthouse is beautiful, no one is arguing that, but to make the county run effectively, don't the taxpayers who are paying the workers wages, deserve to have county offices that can run efficiently and effectively? As technology advances, shouldn't Clay County also be allowed to use the updated technologies? I don't like to see my taxes go up either, but there comes a time and place that old buildings are no longer effective for what they were design for 109 years ago. Maybe the group that opposes the new court house should look at taking over the courthouse, if the bond passes, and then they can spend their money on refurbishing it and updating everything instead of it instead of using tax payers dollars to keep an old, outdated building, limping along for another 50 years. Maybe there is a market for 100 year old buildings that new investors are looking to move into to start up a business, of course only after spending millions to upgrade an old building, they do it in Sioux City with their old hotels, why not Vermillion?

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