To the editor:

The Clay County Commission will place a bond issue on the June 8 ballot.

The Commission is requesting approval of a $41,000,000 bond issue to construct a new building complex consisting of a new court room facility, new county administrative offices, new law enforcement center and new jail on a site within the Vermillion city limits.

The present courthouse and law enforcement center will be abandoned after construction of the new building(s) is complete.

Construction of a new jail and law enforcement center is NECESSARY AND ESSENTIAL if the County is going to provide the full range of services that the public expects.

There is significant support among the citizens of the County for the preservation of the historic, 1912, courthouse.The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The County Commission, during the process leading up to the bond issue vote, needed to express interest and support for the preservation of the historic courthouse.Since no concrete steps have been taken in that regard, any succeeding County Commission can simply say they have changed their mind and destroy the building or place it in the hands of the private sector, which could have the same results.

Neither the design nor the location of the new courthouse complex have been determined.The sketches shown to the public are conceptual in nature.We don’t know if it will be one or two stories or the size of the site. There are no plans available.Apparently we are being asked to approve an amorphous project on an unknown site.Voters approving the bond issue will have to place total trust in the commission and their architects, engineers and consultants.

The consultants have provided a cost for rehabilitation of the existing courthouse. They have not provided any details about what this entails other than a “gut rehab.” Have they examined more nuanced rehabilitation based on the uses of the building and what exactly would need to be done to achieve an historically appropriate rehabilitation that function well in the real world? There is no need to reinvent the wheel as sensitive rehabilitations of similar buildings have occurred all over the country.“Gut rehab” is a simple, quick, often an inappropriate response to reusing an historic building.

It has been stated during the long planning process that the County is hoping to build a facility for the next 50 years.There is extensive literature regarding the changing nature of law enforcement and county governance over the next 50 years.What societal changes (legalization of recreational marijuana for example) will affect incarceration rates, jail usage? What technological changes will affect how the county is governed? We do not have answers to these and many other questions.

Based on information made available to the public a yes vote on the bond issue will authorize the County Commission to spend $41,000,000 to construct a mystery building on a mystery site with no need to seek public input.

Jim Wilson

Historic Preservation

Consultant

Vermillion

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