Editorial: Board did its best with hard funding choice

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 29, 2002

No matter how the county board chose to fund the courthouse project, somebody was going to be upset. If they chose the kind of bonds that allow a referendum, farmers would be off the hook for much of the cost, but homeowners would make up for that by paying more. If the board chose non-referendum bonds, as it did, farmers would be taxed for their land as well, and there’d be no chance for a public vote.

That makes it the kind of hard decision we elect our commisioners to make. While it’s easy to sympathize with farmers, it’s also important to be fair, and by letting the tax burden fall more evenly on the county’s property, the board chose the more fair route.

Whether they should have allowed a referendum is the other question. Many, particularly those who want a chance to vote the project down, think they should have. &uot;Let the people vote&uot; has basically been code for &uot;Let the people vote ‘No.’&uot; While it’s certainly fine that some people disagree with the direction the courthouse project has taken, it’s our view that the county’s needs are well-established, and that more delays in a courthouse solution will only inflate costs and allow more problems to develop.

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The jail is overcrowded and dozens wait to serve their time. County employees are still asked to work in converted closets and other unfit areas. The mismatched, patchwork courthouse still lacks a cohesive appearance and its historical significance is still depleted by the ’54 building.

When Freeborn County elected three new commissioners two years ago, these facts were established, and those candidates knew tackling the courthouse was one of their main tasks. They have done what they were elected to do: Study the options carefully, more than any of us have, and vote for what they consider the best choice. They were not elected to pass the buck to voters.