Aug 30, 2016

Future Grundy County construction plans may be put to voters

In the future, constructing a new building to house county facilities could take more than a majority vote among the 18 members of the Grundy County Board.

If a resolution presented for the first time Tuesday evening eventually wins approval, any such construction project would require a favorable vote by the majority of the voters in a countywide election.

The matter did not come to a yes-or-no vote Tuesday, instead being unanimously referred back to the Advisory Committee for further consideration. That vote came after a discussion that raised concerns about the lack of an emergency clause and consternation about from where the proposal even originated.

It was Jeremy Ly who first asked about the source of the resolution, requesting not only an answer to the questions of from which committee it originate and who was its sponsor, but also for an explanation of its purpose.

Severson explained the resolution would cover any project for which bonding is required and which Public Building Commission would control.

“If a project needs to be borrowed for, many felt voters should be involved,” Severson said.

Under the current process, when a facilities need is identified, the Public Building Commission, following a favorable vote by the county board, obtains the funding, goes out for bid on the project, oversees the construction and then rents the facility back to the county at an annual lease equal to the amount owed each year in premium and interest payments on the bonds.

In the past, when a project has been paid off, ownership of the building was then transferred back to the county.

Severson added that the PBC in the past has done an excellent job overseeing projects.

However, in the wake of higher-than-anticipated costs for the new 911 Dispatch Center, the PBC and the county have received significant criticism over the way projects have been authorized in the past.

“We already have a referendum every four or two years,” Ly said. “If people aren’t happy, they can kick someone out of office.”

“It’s our responsibility to make decisions, that’s why we’re elected,” he added.

Richard Joyce joined in Ly’s criticism of the proposal because of the elongated process that it would involve. He cited, specifically, the fire that destroyed the Grundy County Highway Building in December 2007.

“I don’t think anyone would argue that we needed a highway garage,” Joyce said

His position stemmed from the reality that if that fire had occurred in late April or May of this year, the next possible opportunity — short of a special election — for putting a building referendum on the ballot would have been the primary election coming up in March 2012, nearly a year later.

David Welter than asked, specifically, whether an emergency clause had been included in the resolution to address such a situation.

“No,” was Assistant State’s Attorney Susan Bates’ brief reply.

It was then that Welter made the motion to table the item until the Advisory Committee is able to review it further. That motion passed 18-0.