Government Center will go to referendum
The Portage County Board of Supervisors will let residents weigh in on whether a new three-story Government Center should be built for $78.5 million.
Supervisors Tuesday, Aug. 16, approved 19-6 a resolution to put the question on the Nov. 8 ballot as an advisory referendum. The difference in whether to have the referendum boiled down to how supervisors interpreted the responsibility of their position, whether supervisors were elected to make difficult decisions for their constituents or bring those issues back to the people to decide.
“I am not afraid to make a decision even if it’s a difficult one,” District 7 Supervisor Dan Dobratz said, adding that as a taxpayer, he has to come up with funds for the project as well. “And I am not against having a referendum. What I’m against at this time is an incomplete referendum. There are a lot of questions that aren’t answered.
“I am for this building project, (but) I think we need to complete the process before we put the question out there,” he said.
County Supervisors in favor of the referendum were Tom Mallison, District 1; Chris Doubek, District 2; David Medin, District 4; Julie Morrow, District 5; Marion “Bud” Flood, District 6; Bo DeDeker, District 9; Bob Gifford, District 10; Stan Potocki, District 11; Don Butkowski, District 12; Jim Gifford, District 14; Allen Haga, District 15; Phil Idsvoog, District 16; Jerry Walters, District 17; Larry Raikowski, District 18; Dale O’Brien, District 19; Charles Gussel, District 20; Matt Jacowski, District 22; Barry Jacowski, District 23; Gerry Zastrow, District 24; and Jim Zdroik, District 25.
Along with Dobratz, those against the referendum were Meleesa Johnson, District 3; Larry Sipiorski, District 8; Don Jankowski, District 13; and Jeanne Dodge, District 21.
The reasons for and against ran the gamut, but most thoughts on either side of the coin focused around the public, their knowledge or lack thereof about the project, questions the public wanted answered and the length of time the studies have taken.
Dobratz said his constituents have asked for more specifics that will not be known until a design phase is completed, such as what the building will look like and what the actual cost would be.
The supervisors should be making the tough decisions since they are the ones who have been studying this issue for years, Dodge said.
“There is no way you can educate the public in 15 months about what it’s taken us 25 years (to accumulate),” she said.
Barry Jacowski challenged supervisors to approve the referendum saying, “If you think you’ve made the right decision, then you shouldn’t be afraid to put it on a referendum.”
Jankowski said asking the public’s advice on such a large issue when the county has spent years investigating it was basically admitting that supervisors didn’t want to make a decision.
“The resolution is asking us to take our responsibility and pass it down the line to someone who doesn’t have as much (information),” he said. “Are we afraid to make a decision?”
Potocki, who voted for the referendum, said his constituents are telling him to make the decision and build the building.
The approved referendum resolution included the referendum question, which will appear on the ballot at:
“Shall Portage County construct a new three-story Portage County Government Center with new court and law enforcement and jail facilities in downtown Stevens Point adjacent to the existing Portage County Government Annex at a capital cost not to exceed $78.5 million?”
Answer options are just as simple:
“A ‘Yes’ vote means that you are in favor of constructing a new three-story Portage County Government Center with new court and law enforcement and jail facilities in downtown Stevens Point adjacent to the existing Portage County Government Annex at a capital cost not to exceed $78.5 million.”
“A ‘No’ vote means you do not favor building a new Portage County Government Center as set forth in the referendum question.”
The County Board June 21 approved 15-8 moving forward with the concept of building the new Government Center. The $78.5 million plan entails constructing a three-story, 270,000-square-foot building attached to the County Annex containing, in part, a jail to house a maximum of 200 prisoners, with room to grow if needed, and four new courtrooms.
Also included in the plan is demolition of the 1039 Ellis St. building. Repurposing the existing County-City Building in some way is on the list, but with a “to be determined” cost. It is not known whether repurposing the building would remain on the list; Portage County Executive Patty Dreier has included funds in the 2017-22 Capital Improvements Plan to remodel and repair the building.