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The news on the front page of the Oct. 15 edition was depressing no matter how you read it. That news, on the back of the recent financial news, only continues a trend in a long direction of dark news for Lancaster County – Springs Industries, Front Door Communications, a torched historic courthouse and more than 12 percent unemployment.
There is a saying that goes, “What’s done is done – you cannot go back.” But we do have some choices going forward. And I am not sure we, as residents of Lancaster County, are being presented with all of our options.
The fact is, the courthouse was burned down and we have to have a place to hold court. That is purely logical and I am sure no one contests that fact. But the questions are where, how and at what cost? Our county elected officials seem to be only interested in the last of those questions.
In this present economy, I find it incredulous that County Council even thought about, let alone is promoting building a $33 million monument. That kind of reminds me of the tag line, “What were you thinking?”
If we must build a new facility, it had better be the most Spartan, frugal structure we could possibly imagine. But to me, the very first options and questions should be: Where can we hold court in a proper facility and second, how do we solve this crisis with the very least out-of-pocket costs to our residents? County Council members should be absolutely 100 percent ashamed of themselves for even having the gall to publicly float a $33 million idea.
I believe County Council has the obligation to make public the proposal and designs for the new structure and to justify the $33 million cost before the November election. Otherwise, they are asking us to vote and commit to fund a huge building project without knowing anything about it. Other than trust me. And to date, County Council has not earned my trust that the members are educated in their decision-making process.
- Did County Council look into entering an agreement with the city to use the existing municipal court room for county court? I’m sure the Municipal Justice Center could accommodate their needs and at probably a mere fraction of the $33 million dollar projected costs.
- Did County Council look into any of the current vacant buildings to see if any of them could be renovated to accommodate the courts needs?
n There are a lot of Springs buildings vacant at this time - any chance one could be leased until the economy and our residents get in a better financial situation?
My point is the last thing we need is a monster building with marble floors and granite interiors and 20 foot ceilings. And let’s not forget the mahogany paneling and the cherry wainscoting. This type of building is exactly what we do not need.
My recommendation is to take a deep breath and step back. We do not have to vote on this now in November. We can call for a special election and vote when all of our options are known.
Neither of the proposed options are palatable – raising the sales tax on a population with a 12-plus percent unemployment rate and impending foreclosures is absurd and raising property taxes is equally asinine.
We need to better review our options and not make any knee-jerk decisions. County Council has made enough of those over the years, some of which we are probably still paying for.
Denis Fuller is a Lancaster County resident.