Approximately 28 people attended the second town hall meeting on Oct. 22 at Waltonville Grade School. They included M360 representatives Jim Engeman, Sheriff Roger Mulch, County Board members Randy Edwards and Jim Laird and Board Secretary Suzy Tate. As was true of the first town hall meeting at Dodds School, this one had the feel of a high pressure sales pitch for the $7.62 million courthouse remodel project designed by M360.
Chairman Edwards began the presentation by again summarizing the problems with leaky roof flashings and windows, mold, leaking pipes, inadequate ventilation and heat, etc. He added that the courthouse is not ADA compliant and “the government could shut us down. It only takes one complaint and we’re down.” Mr. Edwards offered no legal authority for these latter assertions.
This was followed by Mr. Engeman’s slide show presentation. He said the $7.62 million price tag is “a full scope budget for the whole project” to which Mr. Edwards added “we want to finance this with a 1/4 percent sales tax increase.”
When he was asked about other funding mechanisms, Mr. Edwards explained that laying off the deputies would be impossible because “the county isn’t mandated to have deputies, only a sheriff.”
Contrary to what Mr. Edwards reportedly told the County Board Public Safety Committee (see Register-News article of Oct. 24) the majority of tax payers at these two town hall meetings did not “favor a one-quarter cent sales tax.” The overwhelming majority of taxpayers at these meetings have stated they don’t want any tax increase. When faced with a choice between increasing the sales tax or the property tax, the few who were asked did pick a sales tax increase as the lesser of two evils.
Toward the end of the meeting Mr. Edwards said something that was quite revealing. In responding to a comment by one lifelong resident that the county is losing population because of high taxes Mr. Edwards said this: “That’s why it is hard for me to stand here and try to sell you a 1/4 percent sales tax increase.”
Mr. Edwards’ only admission that his job is “to sell you on a quarter percent sales tax increase” puts to rest the notion that our county leadership is open to citizen input. They aren’t, at least not yet.