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County could put bids before the vote

Paul Snyder
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Monroe County supervisors OK’d construction of a new justice center, spent $1.7 million on the design, plan to bid the job in September and then might seek voter approval for the project.

But there is a good reason for the last-minute advisory vote, said Harv Simmons, the supervisor who proposed the referendum on the $30 million project.

“I know there’s opposition on the County Board to stopping the project,” he said. “But the opposition in the county to the project is overwhelming. If that’s what I’ve got to do to stop this project, so be it.”

The referendum might not stop anything. The Monroe County Board of Supervisors will decide Wednesday whether to seek voter opinion on the project, and state rules require a minimum six-week delay between approval of a referendum and the actual vote.

The county’s justice center committee recently agreed to accept project bids from Sept. 7 to Sept. 24.

So bids should be in before any referendum.

“‘Why?’ is a really good question,” said County Supervisor Julie Radke. “There’s no point to it.”

The County Board approved the project in February 2008 after almost 20 years of debate and immediately hired Milwaukee-based Venture Architects to design the justice center to be built in Sparta.

Board members planned to bid the project in February this year, but the Monroe County Taxpayer’s Relief Committee in December 2008 began requesting a referendum.

There was no referendum, but some supervisors succeeded in placing a hold on construction for four months.

If the project dies, Radke said, the county loses its design investment. Furthermore, she said, a referendum could cost as much as $40,000 and do nothing to change the County Board’s decision.
But Simmons said he would be surprised if the board does not treat the advisory referendum as binding.

“I think it will be an exciting day in April if they don’t listen to what the residents say,” he said, referring to his fellow supervisors. “I’d rather see us spend $1.7 million and lose it than spend a lot more on a project that people are upset about and that we seemingly want to push forward in the worst economy we’ve ever seen.”

Simmons said county leaders must consider all options before plowing ahead with a project that has little support outside of the Board of Supervisors.

Radke said 20 years of debate and planning, combined with a three-fourths majority project approval, should be enough to justify a new justice center.

“Can we undo the decision now?” she said. “I just don’t know.”

One comment

  1. We may not be able to undo the decision but if we can find the right lawyer we can stop them at least before they sign the bid contract. They seem to do everything backwards and with out notice or approval from anyone. Yet, it is hard to find someone with authority to look into all of the complaints and the issues that have come to head since this whole issue came to light. You should sit in a meeting sometime. They make million dollar decisions with out facts, information or statistics. It’s like being at a 5 dollar black jack table with a trust fund baby. They will bet anything and have no idea what they are doing and mess up everyone else at the table while they make a double down on a hard 16. I don’t know if this county will every be able to come back from the uneducated choices that the board is making. But apparently the “people” don’t get a say or an opinion or even the slightest recognition by the board. It really is disturbing.

    Christine Brookins
    One very upset Monroe County Citizen.

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