The decision to cover the
cost of the new Kent courthouse using $7 million Portage County received from the sale of the county nursing home is a wise one.
Utilizing money from the sale of The Woodlands at Robinson will enable the county to proceed with construction of the new municipal court facility on East Main Street in the downtown area, using a one-time source of revenue for a capital project that is likely to endure for 50 years or more.
The county's municipal judges have been collecting a special fee to defray the cost of the new courthouse. The money has been collected from defendants appearing before the court for the past six years, averaging about $570,000 per year. The fee will remain in place, with proceeds to be used to repay any of the county money used on the courthouse.
When the decision was made to proceed with the new municipal court, the consensus among judges and county commissioners was that an effort would be made to avoid imposing a sizeable obligation on the general fund. Imposing the court fee was the solution, one that shifted the burden for paying for the court to a user-fee arrangement.
That prompted some to question whether using money from The Woodlands sale wasn't a breach of faith. That isn't the case, however, with the fee remaining in place and revenues from it being repaid to the county.
The administration of the court system is an important element of county operations. The present Kent courthouse, which formerly was the Kent Post Office, is no longer adequate for that purpose and the new facility will serve the county for several generations. Using "county money" to pay for it is entirely appropriate. Using money generated from the sale of a county asset that is only a little more than a decade old is a wise investment, too.
The price tag on the Kent court is now estimated at $10.4 million, with completion set for early 2014. The site has been cleared and construction is expected to begin next month, weather permitting.
The cost of the project has risen from original estimates, partly because of delays in finalizing a site for the new court. Had work been able to begin more expeditiously, when construction costs were lower because of the recession, the cost would have been less. The bottom line, however, is that financing for the project has been resolved and the county will be gaining a much needed new courthouse.
I do not understand, I thought they had the money for the New Kent Courthouse. They were collecting additional fees for it and I thought they said they had the money. Now we see that the county is taking something the people need and giving it to the judges. Will those that need care have to go to the Kent Court and be sentenced to get their care?