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.