Opinion: Cautious spending
Editor’s note: Additional information about estimated costs and mills to support a new police station can be found in a story on page 1.
We keep hearing that citizens should attend the Tonganoxie City Council meetings.
It’s difficult for me to attend the meetings because I have been in the seats of the council and don’t want to appear that I’m second-guessing the council on its decisions. However, I have to wholeheartedly disagree with your decision to go ahead with just the two buildings for the police station.
The question before the City Council is what to do for a police station and how much to spend. Is it time to replace the existing police station at a cost of between $700,000 and $1 million or get by with a plan that would cost an estimated $300,000?
The first reason for disagreement is that there were no fair negotiations on all the buildings. The three gentlemen on the Laming Road building should not have been allowed to negotiate on the price of the building or the options on their building before the council unless all the property owners were allowed to do the same.
The second reason I disagree with the decision is that there were other alternatives to look at. The option Dennis Bixby brought up to move City Hall over to the former post office and spread the police department over the entire City Hall made a lot more sense than buying one of the other two buildings. No matter what you do with the present police building, it will still need to be fixed. The estimated costs for refurbishing the former post office and the present city hall are $300,000, which is more affordable than the $700,000 to $1 million you would put into the other two, plus it would also keep downtown Tonganoxie with a building that is occupied. Besides, 3,000 square feet is better than the 1,000 square feet or so that they have now. No matter what the council does — even if it does nothing — the police department will still be able to do its jobs. They will not go away. The building does not make the police department. The and women in uniform make up the police department. Do I want them to have the best of everything? You bet I do, but not at getting the city in debt over its head. The city cannot keep borrowing, refinancing, borrowing more, refinancing again to borrow more money. This leads to financial disaster. All this borrowing will catch up with the council.
It was said that the “national standards” state that we need a building that is much larger than the one we have. I tried to find these “national standards” and can’t. I can find several suggestions about how a big a police station should be, but nothing that says that a town with a population of 5,000 should have a building of a certain dimension. I have asked the council members to show me these standards and I’ve yet to be shown.
The biggest concern came to me when it was said there would be a 6-mill increase in our taxes this coming year to pay for this police station. I did some quick figuring and found that if you borrow $1 million at 4 percent for 20 years it would mean you would have a yearly payment of about $76,000. That’s only a 2-mill increase. Where are the other 4 mills going? I was informed that number was the potential increase from this year to next based on the necessary mills required to fund the debt service and the police building.
There is no reason to hurry this process. Put it on hold until this summer when the city council has its 2013 budget meetings and plans for this building. Try to first fit it into your budget so that you might not have to raise the mill levy.
I appreciate the city council and believe it wants the best for the city.
— Tom Putthoff is a former Tonganoxie City Council member.