The Scott County Board of Supervisors sure loves to spend our money.
At their last meeting, supervisors held a "public hearing" on a 10-year lease for 6,000 feet of office space. They want to move the Juvenile Court Service that now rents public space in the county's Bicentennial Building into private space an equal distance from the courthouse. The county proposes to pay rent that exceeds $800,000 for the second floor of the three-story building with parking.
The owner of the building, his attorney, and the county's director of buildings and grounds (who all pushed for approval) did not bother to attend the hearing. Taxpayers who came to the meeting to question the terms and conditions were not able to examine a copy of the lease because the lease itself has not even been written. Instead, letters from the landlord's attorney were distributed outlining his one-sided conditions. Besides the healthy rent, the main condition is that county taxpayers must also pay $200,000 to $300,000 to remodel the interior of his building. That's right: Supervisors will spend more than $800,000 for rent and parking and more than $200,000 improving one floor of the 128-year-old building.
What is even more troubling about all this is that a downtown development group gave the landlord the building for one dollar, and he had turned down $450,000 in loans and tax breaks from Davenport because there were conditions attached to the money. Instead, with county taxpayers now footing the bill, and no conditions, the building can be sold to the highest bidder with a 10-year tenant already in it. Nice work if you can get it.
As a taxpayer, one has to wonder if supervisors understand their fiduciary responsibility to us. Questions on the unwritten lease were unanswered. Suggestions that county investment be capped at any amount or that the landlord make written commitments to high-quality work or to refrain from asking for more tax breaks were ignored. Supervisors were also asked to continue the hearing to the next meeting so at least some of the principals could respond to the questions.
Instead, the hearing was closed, and the letter from the attorney was adopted as the lease, and $1 million of our tax money slipped quietly out the door. Is this what Scott County taxpayers call "good government"?
Karl J. Rhomberg - candidate for Scott County Board of Supervisors