To the Editor:
In thinking about the upcoming $41 million courthouse bond issue vote, there are four points especially that we think it important to consider.
First, most, if not all of us, who want to save the courthouse recognize that a new jail for the County needs to be built. To imply, then, as the Clay County Board of Commissioners seems to do in their press release of April 27, 2021 that the only alternative to the $41 million bond proposal is to support transporting inmates to other county jails is misleading.
Second, with respect to what happens to the courthouse if the bond issue passes, the Sheriff’s discussion of all of the problems with the current building as well as the County Commissioners’ statement in their press release that “Plumbing, heating, air handling, elevator, code and ADA compliant access and facilities are woefully inadequate” make it clear that no potential buyer in their right mind is going to want to or likely be able to take on the major maintenance needs of this historic building. In this context, while the Commission’s decision to replace the roof of the courthouse and do needed tuck pointing to the building’s exterior is important and to be applauded, it clearly seems insufficient to make the courthouse an attractive prospect to some other user.
Third, in its press release, the Commission suggests that there are many possibilities for other uses of the courthouse. Unfortunately, none are suggested. We think this is because, even putting aside the large renovation costs the courthouse would require, there simply are not a lot of obvious alternative uses. And, when those large renovation costs are considered, the list of alternative uses for the courthouse diminishes even further.
Finally, the Commission suggests that to save the courthouse and build a new jail would cost $55 million. We are skeptical of that figure and point to the alternative proposal described in the April 30, 2021 edition of the Plain Talk.
Overall, then, for these reasons as well as for the fact that the courthouse is a beautiful building worthy of restoration, we will be voting against the bond issue and supporting efforts after it is defeated to develop a new plan to restore the courthouse, renovate the existing law enforcement center as a courthouse annex, and build a badly needed new jail and law enforcement center.
Don and Jeanne Dahlin