Before casting your vote next Tuesday, here are things to consider:
Proponents say we need a new building because: 1) It will be paid for by sales tax; 2) It will centralize the three agencies, including drug and alcohol and cognitive based programs for adults and juveniles; 3) It will improve teamwork and collaboration between agencies; 4) It will promote greater community, law enforcement and social service agency access; 5) It will enhance collaborative training, where possible; 6) Secure juvenile intake facility.
Note that no mention is made about needing more space, although the plan is to build a building with 25,000 square feet, plus another 25,000 in the basement. Curious! The question then becomes how many employees are involved and how much space does each agency presently have? Surely this is information the commission should have had and considered before deciding to proceed with the present plan.
Our county administrator contacted the three agencies and provided the following info: 1) Court Services — eight employees located in county-owned building at 405 N. Eighth St., with 3,200 square feet, 400 per employee; 2) Community Corrections — 12 employees located in 3,200 square feet of space in the former Sears Building at Main and Spruce, 267 per employee; 3) PATH — 18 employees located in 10,000 square feet of space in a building on North 11th Street, 555 square foot per employee.
Respectively, those sizes represent space 20x20, 26x10 and 25x20 for each person! Dividing 38 employees into 25,000 gives 657 square foot each — a space of 26x25! If you include the basement, it will mean each employee would have 1,314 square feet each! For a space comparison, note that our City Hall is 24,000 feet for the three floors.
Presently, the State of Kansas gives the County $90,000 each year for these agencies' budgets; $27,750 per year goes for the Main Street location, $60,000 for the 11th Street space. If Finney County builds this building, it seems possible this state money might be snatched away by the Topeka crowd!
The owner remodeled 15,000 feet of space to PATH's specifications eight years ago, but they cut that back to 10,000 last year. He told the county a year ago that if they continue to lease the space for another five years, he will give the building to Finney County. With 15,000 foot of space available, that seems too good to pass up.
No doubt the good folks at the three agencies work hard at their jobs. But surely the telephone, Internet, texts, tweets and email are all available for communications with one another. People are the key to solving problems, so let's add some dollars to their salaries and forget about squandering $6.6 million for bricks and mortar it doesn't seem we need, even though they might be "sales tax bucks."
A "No" vote should let the commissioners know we don't want to proceed with the project in any case. The "we'll do it anyway and put the cost on your property tax bill" threat is a type of extortion our citizens should not have to endure.
County proposal comes up short
Tuesday, the taxpayers, by the way of a special election, are being asked to fund a $6.625 million county building. First, I have not seen the proof that an expenditure of this amount is needed at all. Garden City is on the verge of being a trade center for southwest Kansas and the possibility of collecting additional sales tax to help us fund much needed projects is a good possibility. We need to be very careful in choosing the things most needed and beneficial to the most people and in our community.
I have a hard time with the county commissioners when they cannot sell a project on the merits and true need of a project that they fall back on the old threat that if you don't vote for it, they will simply add it to our property taxes. Well, let's have a little more respect for the voter and a tax dollar.
When a building project starts at $2 million, somehow goes to $8 million, then back to $6.625 million, it shows me the lack of planning and understanding of what we really need. It does show me an attempt to spend the entire amount that the 1/4-percent sales tax would raise rather than the funding needed to solve a problem.
The last office building built by the county has never been more than one-half occupied. We have buildings all over Garden City privately owned and buildings owned by us, the taxpayers, that are either vacant or not being used to their capacity.
I would urge all voters to consider the facts of this project and take the time on Tuesday to vote "No." This is a single issue special election which is costing the taxpayers of Finney County $10,000 to $12,000, so it is important that we vote.