Written by Administrator Wednesday, 31 January 2007 18:00Jail questions need answers before a vote
I am not one to be very vocal about what my local politicians do with my tax dollars. I generally believe that when I vote I am electing conscientious people who will be judicious in how they approach appropriations.
In recent weeks and months I have slowly become more and more worried about how our county commissioners seem to be bent on taking more hard earned money out of the Marion County taxpayers' pockets to fund projects our community may need-but we cannot afford a Cadillac on a Honda budget.
I certainly understand our current jail is probably well behind the times and needs to be remedied in some way. But caution and trepidation should be the word of the day. I feel our commissioners are pushing far too hard and fast to really put some good information on the table.
Here are some questions I would like answered before I would even consider voting yes for a new jail:
1. How much is the worst-case scenario regarding cost?
2. Are there any guarantees from other counties that want to house prisoners?
3. If Judge Powers would like to have a facility for work-release, how many beds would be needed? For instance, if we have a 72-bed facility and he jails all offenders and locks up 48, how does that affect potential profitability of this jail?
4. What will be the mill-levy increase for properties? (A sales tax will not be enough, according to what I understand.)
5. Should the county really be in the business of economic development? (The jobs created would be funded by tax dollars.)
6. If a sales tax is used will there be a sunset clause? (I never got a clear answer about that from Hillsboro for its pool and am leary of that 0.5 percent ever being taken away even after the pool is paid for.)
7. Details, details, details. (If you want $15 million, I'd better have some details to make an educated decision).
In conclusion, I would like to challenge the county commissioners to think about several issues.
First, I feel these questions need answers prior to any bond election. If you do not answer the questions, I will feel you are tying to buffalo me into believing on faith that you are just doing your job.
Also, think about Main Street. All cities within the county proper have something to lose if you increase the sales tax. Believe it or not, business decisions about where to buy their next computer, shirt or groceries are made every day and pricing yourself out of the market in sales tax will hurt.
What about rural property owners? Agriculture may not be the most glamorous world, and you may not be aware that rural landowners pay a tremendous amount of money to the county and provide revenues for not only the county but schools as well.
I would finally ask the commissioners if they have looked around the county lately. If they have, they will see many homes for sale. This means that more than likely we are about to enter a down market in housing. If this happens property values will fall and we will see property tax revenue decrease.
If we want to get people to move here and buy a home in our communities, we'd better understand that taxes are a significant portion of how many people make those decisions.
I hope our commissioners are listening, as this has some huge implications for Marion County.
Kevin R. Suderman
Commission is to blame for contention
When the smoke clears from the proposed justice center project for Marion County several things become obvious.
First, the project is basically an attempt by the City of Marion to initiate some economic revitalization in their community. Marion, like so many other small rural communities, is desperate for any kind of development and nobody can blame them. How they go about it, however, is highly questionable.
Second, and perhaps more telling, is the competitive divisiveness between Hillsboro and Marion that brings out the worst in county issues like the proposed justice center.
We may not need a new justice center for Marion County but if Hillsboro had any sense, it would work as intently to help the City of Marion with its economy issues as it does its own. And, if Marion had any sense, they would accept the help and provide Hillsboro with the same.
Hillsboro is in a much better economic position than Marion, but so far Hillsboro hasn't realized the importance of keeping the City of Marion as economically vibrant as its own.
The Marion County commission is to blame for much of the contention and lack of direction within the county where issues like the justice center proposal evolve. But, it's not as much about the justice center as it is about the commission's inability to provide responsible leadership in developmental aspects of the county altogether.
Given another large project like the justice center, they would likely make a mess of it as well.
The businesses rightfully point out the dilemma rural communities like ours face in adding tax burdens to dwindling revenues. The story is all too common in rural America and nobody can slight the outcries.
But you can bet Hillsboro wouldn't bat an eye about initiating a project that would potentially burden the taxpayers as much as the proposed justice center if they thought they could get away with it and the Hillsboro businesses would be present in mass to cut the ribbon on opening day.
Some rural counties have learned to adapt successfully to changing times-to be thoughtfully addressing what they want and need for the future of their communities instead of knee jerking every time someone comes up with another half-cocked idea.
Unfortunately, the communities of Marion County have not learned to adapt to or support each other's needs in a constructive manner. The county commission only makes matters worse by not facilitating a sense of cooperation in such dramatic developments from the start.
In this day and age, who in their right mind would allow such an extraordinary development as the justice center proposal to evolve without encouraging greater participation in the proposal stages including its economic impact to the region?
Answer: an irresponsible county commission.
The county commission relegated itself to an inept referee in the economic development messes they have fostered for years.
The communities of Hillsboro and Marion are as much to blame for their lack of cooperation in economic development matters and, for all the years of their meetings, Marion County Economic Development Council has yet to demonstrate a developmental role in providing one single job in Marion, Hillsboro, Peabody, Florence-you name it.
--o doubt jobs have been created, but not because of community or county cooperation and knowledge in better organizing its developmental efforts.
Arguably, the justice center proposal stood a chance of at least providing a job or two. And make no mistake-creating jobs is what economic development is all about.
The Marion County commission is neither decisive nor forward thinking as a leadership board and the reaction to the justice center proposal points that out very clearly.
What about all the good here in Florence?
An apology, Gerald E. Cleverley (Letters, Jan. 24)? No. The letter you wrote was the longest letter bashing on the City of Florence I have ever read.
I have one question for you, sir: Were you even living in our wonderful community in 2002?
Where is your letter about all the wonderful things about Florence? How about all the volunteers who work day in and day out to bring our town together and provide safety to our community?
How about all the wonderful events in our town, such as the Labor Day celebration, Spring Fling and fund-raisers to help those in our community who have experienced financial troubles due to health, fires and any thing else that might occur?
Our town is a family that pulls together.
The last thing we need is more negativity and council bashing. We are all striving to build this town up and you, Mr. Cleverley, seem to be on a path of destruction.
This town takes great pride in every thing it does. And as, for your comments; on the Americans with Disabilities Act, Rome was not built in a day. These things do take time.
The City of Florence, along with the town's ADA compliance officer, have worked very hard to bring these changes about, not just hire lawyers and talk about it.
Now to address your comment on the increase of numbers in city employees: with growth comes change. How do you expect the city to meet your demands without those that can change it, build it, protect it, or maintain it?
Correct me if I am wrong. You implied in your letter that we also had problems with our emergency medical services. Without the town's support and volunteers, our nearest EMS unit would be 10 miles away. Do you, Mr. Cleverley, want to wait 10 minutes while your life or the life of someone you love is hanging in the balance?
Our town has had a EMT that has served and a volunteer for 36 years. That means without pay, Mr. Cleverley. I personally have served on this ambulance department for 13 years and, as for our record and our compliance with state regulations, we are top notch.
We are very proud of our ambulance and those who take the time out of their day to save lives.
I have seen the same commitment from those who serve on our council-those who volunteer and never receive any credit or thanks, just grief. The members of the city council and others who volunteer have worked hard year round to keep Labor Day and all events bringing people to town, up and going.
Where are you and all the other negative people? Certainly not volunteering, nor at any events to raise money to better our community.
You want to make a change? Jump in any time and volunteer and work hard with the rest who want to make a change instead of sitting on the sidelines and gossiping with those who are afraid to speak up. Go to the council meetings and speak up. Make this town great.
We all need to work together, Mr. Cleverley. Negativity will get this town no where except in a screaming match.
It's time for me to get off my bandwagon and do something productive. I wish I could address all the issues you have with the city of Florence, but some people will not except the good, just the bad.
To you, Mr. Cleverly, I say, "Balderdash!" To the council and the volunteers, I say. "Keep up the good job of trying. You can't please everyone."