I’ve changed my mind.
Readers may recall that in one of our Plain Talk editions last March, I opined that the upcoming $42.8 million bond issue that we’ll be deciding at the ballot box on Tuesday was going to fail. Big time.
I was a bit too hot under the collar, come to think of it, when I wrote that. You probably remember that a bond issue was held in March 2021 that was very similar to the one we’re about to decide. The vote in March, however, included constructing a new jail, a new law enforcement safety center, land acquisition costs and a space for courts.
The historic Clay County Courthouse would have been abandoned. Two-thirds of people who cast ballots on this issue said, “No way.”
Surely, I thought to myself, as the county went back to the drawing board to come up with a new plan and a new bond issue for citizens to approve, it will be much more affordable. We won’t see anything close to the $41 million we were asked to approve in 2021.
And I was correct. The price went up for the current proposed building project that actually will contain less than what was proposed a year earlier. By nearly $2 million.
Thus, my March 2022 prediction that the new bond issue, which we will all vote on Tuesday, will fail.
Prove me wrong. Vote for the bond issue.
The 2021 bond issue that Clay County commissioners placed before us came after months of study by the Clay County Courthouse, Jail, and Law Enforcement Facility Planning Committee. When the bond issue flopped, the committee disbanded.
Steve Waller, a member of the committee, made sure the public wouldn’t forget that both Clay County and the City of Vermillion have some very serious needs when it comes to operating a county jail and joint law enforcement center. Both are inadequate and are becoming incredibly expensive for us taxpayers to operate in their normal, day-to-day operation.
Waller has made sure we’re all aware of that. He has gathered facts and made several presentations to share that information with the public. He had developed a web page for people to access and learn about this issue.
He is a retired USD professor, but he’s made it his mission to teach us all about what’s truly going on.
As I write this, the wind is blowing against our office’s outer doors. It’s almost like a sucking sound and I can’t help but think, yeah, that’s what we have going on fiscally in our county and city when it comes to properly operating a county jail, a 911 center and adequate office space for our city police and county sheriff officers.
Our tax dollars are getting sucked away for a variety of reasons. They’re being blown away in the wind and we have nothing to show for that except for empty pockets.
You can swear under your breath as you enter the voting booth Tuesday. “I’ll show them,” you can grumble as you mark “No” to the bond issue.
Don’t congratulate yourself, though. You’ve just guaranteed that the county will, once again, opt-out of the property tax freeze and spend your tax dollars to house Clay County prisoners in other counties’ jails.
Your dollars are already blowing away to house prisoners elsewhere and they will continue to flutter away to enrich Union, Yankton, Minnehaha and other counties where we will be forced to house prisoners.
I’m sure those counties will be sympathetic to our plight, but their costs will be going up year after year and I don’t think they’ll feel so sorry for our jail situation that they won’t raise their rates. We’ll be paying them more and more year after year after year.
We taxpayers will be working to pay off this bond for the next 30 years if it’s approved and I know that makes the decision difficult. Plus, we’re already starting to pay off a lengthy bond that’s paying for the construction of a new elementary school. It’s tough. I get it. I’m a Clay County property owner, just like you. I pay property taxes.
The Vermillion School Board knew that someday it would have to replace its two aging elementary schools because they’re becoming too inefficient to operate. They were great 60 years ago. Education has changed a lot since then.
I suppose the Clay County Jail was great a century ago, too. The 100-year-old facility is a nightmare today and the 30-year-old law enforcement center clearly was not planned with the future in mind.
It’s time to stop launching our tax dollars into a strong gale, to be blown away and never provide any investment to our community and our county. It’s time to grit our teeth, say “Yeah, this is worth it,” and vote yes Tuesday to approve the bond.