Letter in the April 4 Tomahawk Leader:
To the Editor:
I thank those citizens of Lincoln County who sent their choice on solving county workplace space needs. Your choices were shared at the March 21 county board meeting. Our county board of supervisors voted to reject all plans to meet court, jail and administration space needs for the county.
After two decades of planning and cooperative efforts between the county and Ninth District courts and the approval of a third and fourth plan to meet all the needs of the courts, the county turned away by considering only a resolution to remodel the courthouse for courts only use, to remodel the jail and to build an administration building.
The review of the last two decades planning by the county’s workplace planning committee illustrated clearly to that no plan to remodel the courthouse for courts only use presents a safe and efficient system. Three new plans with additions and remodeling the present building were presented and one was accepted. The board’s response was to reject moving forward with any accepted plan. Yet another plan is to be presented to Ninth District for remodeling the courthouse. This new plan would join the 15 plus or minus three plans presently in the past five years.
The second bit of lunacy displayed (was) refusing to consider other plans on the remodeling of the present jail to house 71 inmates at a cost similar to building a new jail space that would house well over 100 inmates.
A third factor is to build a $6 million administration building. Present administration needs show the county coroner is not provided office space, office space for the finance department has to be found when the sheriff’s demand for finances’ present space is met. (A $200,000-plus project is presently underway to move the sheriff and chief deputy downstairs, vacating present offices for the jail administrator.) Land services remain in tight quarters and computer services are located in two locations. This planned $6,159,000 administration building seems to be quite an expensive cure for these needs. However, our representatives again voted to return to the drawing board rather than approve a plan and move ahead.
These stalling tactics are allowing construction costs to escalate. For example, costs of the justice center in 2001 were $7,000,000. That same complex today would cost $9,000,000. Coupled with that, interest rates are on the rise again adding further costs when a decision is finally made.
Very little can be accomplished when two parties act confrontationally with each other. That is what our board voted to do on the 21st. The board rejected all four plans from Ninth District and again dug their heels in by saying we are only willing to remodel the courthouse, take it or leave it. The board further demanded over $6,000,000 of our hard earned tax dollars to provide relief of relatively minor administration space needs. Finally, they insist upon remodeling the jail and increasing jail staff only to return a portion of outsourced inmates. Other alternatives would return every inmate to Lincoln County for a smaller cost and do so without increasing present staff.
Conclusion: Lincoln County is not ready to solve its space needs. Our representatives are content to continue operating an unsafe, inefficient judicial system. They also are content spending upwards of $250,000 annually to ship inmates to other county jails.