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More on bonding, county buildings

Feeling the need to post something, so here’s a draft of a story that will go in tomorrow’s paper, about the county Administrative Office Building and the potential for bonding without voter approval:

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Linn County Supervisors delayed a vote Wednesday to form a committee that would look into purchasing Steve & Barry’s, the current home of county offices.

When the question does come up for a vote, perhaps next week, likely its only supporter will be Supervisor Brent Oleson, who argues that if bonding to help pay for an $11.7 million renovation and addition to the Administrative Office Building fails with voters, the supervisors will need a second option.

Three of five supervisors say they will consider borrowing money for the project without voter approval. Recent state legislation allows bonding for major building repairs in disaster-affected counties, and the building falls within an urban renewal district, which also opens the possibility for bonding without voter approval.

Bypassing voters to issue bonds might be necessary, Supervisors Linda Langston, Jim Houser and Lu Barron say, because Linn County, Cedar Rapids and the Cedar Rapids School District need funding for several projects, and sending all those projects to the ballot would be inefficient.

“We could be looking at ten bond issues,” Langston said.

She said that trying to get voter approval for a bond issue in the November election will be difficult, as citizens go to the polls to elect a new city council.

“I can just about guarantee what will happen with that vote,” she said. “I really don’t want to be on that November ballot.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has promised $2.2 million to repair the flood-damaged lower level of the Administrative Office Building at 930 First St. SE. But supervisors believe it’s important to add onto the building, reconfigure it and mitigate it against future flooding.

Not only do county plans call for a new top floor, but the Information Technology and Recorder’s Offices must be moved up from the basement that flooded in June. The building’s mechanical components must also be moved from the basement to the roof.

The supervisors are in a tough spot. They believe these improvements are crucial, but they worry voters won’t agree.

“I am in favor of putting this up for a vote,” Supervisor Ben Rogers said. “(But) if it doesn’t pass the 60 percent threshold, we will have to go back to a building that’s too small for us, that does not suit all our needs.”

Oleson won’t commit to voting against bonding past the voters, but he opposed the legislation that would allow it and he opposed the plans for the building that the board approved Monday.

“I would be inclined to have voter approval for any project that goes substantively beyond what it was,” he said. “If it’s such a great idea, the voters will probably approve it.”


Filed under: County Government, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Responses

  1. Mrs. Allen says:

    Have there been previous articles written that would explain why some of the superivsors seem so set on renovating the existing Linn County Administrative Offices and what their reasons are for not wanting to buy the Steve and Barry’s place? I’m curious to know their reasons.

  2. Linda Langston says:

    The supervisors are waiting for a full staff assessment of the Steve and Barry’s building. At this time, we know that there are significant improvements needed to the roof, HVAC systems, and other systems. There are also improvements needed to the exterior and the parking lot. Those improvements, along with interior improvements may cost between $70 – $100 per sq. ft. With 110,000 sq. ft. the cost could be the same as the AOB building, but without any reimbursement from FEMA and the purchase cost of the Steve and Barry’s building. Once we have a full report from staff we will provide the information. Also to be noted, I said that I did not know what I would do regarding a vote on the bonding, but that I did not like the chances of any vote in November and I don’t believe we would be ready to put this on the ballot by July 1 which would be necessary for an August vote. The complexities and information needed make a decision a challenging one.

  3. Rett says:

    Hmm, one representative that actually wants to REPRESENT the people.

    Ben Rogers said, “We’ll have to go back to a building that’s too small for us and doesn’t suit all our needs.”

    Tell that to the people still living in FEMA trailers. I’m sorry, politicians, but taxpayers are not here to meet all your needs!

    However, even if it does get put to a vote, and it fails, why don’t you just put it to a vote again a few weeks later like the LOST? Because certainly it will only fail if the citizens were just “uninformed.”

    Don’t worry, one way or another you’ll find a way to get your money. I mean my money.

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