to the editor
To the Editor:
The purpose of this letter is to provide answers to questions raised by Eric Meyer in last week’s paper.
He was concerned that he did not know what line item contained what money for what project in the county’s voluminous budget. He also pointed out in the old days every check written had to be disclosed. With few exceptions county business still has to be disclosed (Freedom of Information Act).
All one has to do is ask for the information and pay a fee for paper copies (actual expense-no profit is made by County). The major reason is the cost of printing legal notices in the County’s official newspaper. Recent County Resolutions (they must be printed by law) cost anywhere from $50-$270 each. The county budget recently printed (very abbreviated version that still complied with the law) cost $499.50.
A simple phone call would have obtained the information he was lacking, and avoided the erroneous information provided to the public in his previous article.
He questioned whether the County actually needed several thousand square feet of additional space but then stated he would take us at our word (we appreciate it). Again a simple phone call and I personally would give him a tour to demonstrate our need. After the tour if he still felt we do not need more space the debate would commence.
He questioned our decision to have a firm study the cost of restoring the Bowron building or constructing a new building. Granted the $500,000 to restore and the $1,000,000 to replace made it seem to make the decision a no-brainer. However, those are very “shoot from the hip” type numbers. We are asking BG Consultants to take a harder look at the costs to get a more accurate figure for each. Mr. Meyer considers it a waste of money, I consider it a prudent and responsible approach.
Mr. Meyer stated the County did not do much to preserve the Hill School Building and the Elgin Hotel. I concur with that statement, but question the County’s responsibility for these two structures. One building belongs to USD 408 and the other is privately owned. Had the County helped (I doubt it would have been legal), then to be fair the County would have been obligated to do the same countywide.
He questioned why our taxes are higher but our roads, though fewer, are in worse shape. Our taxes cover more than just roads, but for argument sake I will focus on roads. We have basically the same number of miles now that we had in the seventies. If we have lost more than 20 miles in the intervening forty years I would be very surprised. I feel (and I’m sure there are many people who will take exception to this) that improvements are being made. It is a slow tedious process but we did not get where we are overnight. For five years now there has been a program to upgrade “chip and seal” roads and this year a process has been implemented to upgrade gravel roads. With 1,600 miles of roads to maintain we cannot get to all as fast as we would like. The rising cost of materials are also reflected in budget increases. Sample items are reflected below:
Gravel $3.30/ton $8.12/ton
Asphalt $18.50/ton $65.00/ton
Fuel $.77/gal. unl. $3.26/gal. unl.
$.64/gal. diesel $3.30/gal. diesel
One additional factor in local budget increases is the State handing out tax exemptions like candy at Christmas. The county has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue due these exemptions. The millions of dollars in revenue lost to the pipeline exemption is not included.
I will not be part of giving you the unequivocal commitment you asked for. I personally believe in maintaining historical buildings. However, I will not commit to a decision until I have heard from all citizens who care to weigh in on this issue. Cost is only one factor in this discussion. I am sure when it is time to make a decision there will be public discussion where the facts will be presented and citizens can have their opinions heard.
You seem to have taken my Thomas Jefferson quote as I do not have any use for the Press. Quite the contrary, I do not believe a democracy could exist without a free press. The press has been a key factor in keeping the Keystone debate alive and I am very grateful to all involved. I have been around the world a time or two and have witnessed first-hand what happens in countries without a free press, it is not a system I would care to live under.
My take on Jefferson’s comment is news articles are written by individuals whether they be reporters or editors and often reflect the writer’s opinion and quality of research. I believe today’s events and coverage received from various news sources support this statement. Thus people who derive an opinion based solely on a single news article stand to be misinformed as I feel they were as a result of Mr. Meyer’s original commentary on this issue.