Some Brown County residents are banding together to protest more than $6.5 million in bonds the county commissioners gave preliminary approval to pay for the expansion of the county courthouse.
Residents are concerned about the costs and designs proposed by two architectural firms, Perdue Architectural Design Studio and Miller Architects. Petitioner Ruth Reichmann says Miller’s proposal, which was completed free of charge and is cheaper than Perdue’s, was shot down by the commissioners without good cause. So she began circulating a petition.
“So that the Brown County Citizens can decide which ones they want or that maybe adjustments can be made and maybe the price can be brought down because it seems very high.” Reichmann says.
If 100 people sign petitions by May 10, a new set of signatures will be needed initiating what’s called a remonstrance. Those backing the bond and those against it will race for 30 days to see which camp gathers more signatures.
“It’s like a game, it’s like whoever gets the highest score wins,” County Administrator Mike Thompson says.
Thompson says Miller’s proposal isn’t as in-depth as Perdue’s and that offering the county a free proposal hoping to get the work later isn’t a good way to do business.
“Mr. Miller did have a fair and impartial chance with the current county commissioners to talk about what he could do and what he couldn’t do,” Thompson says.
During a special session in February, the commissioners said they wanted to hear Miller’s proposals during their next meeting and time was docketed for the architect.
But three days later during that meeting Commission President John Kennard said they were no longer going to be hearing from Miller. Commissioner Dave Anderson says he was surprised Miller was being excluded.
“I did not have a conversation with Mr. Kennard about excluding anything else from Steve Miller,” Anderson says. “I was not a party to that conversation if it took place.”
Reached for comment, Kennard noted the county had already spent $40,000 on the Perdue study and would have been wasting the money if the process was restarted.
Interest on the bond is estimated at $1.9 million which would bring the total cost of the courthouse renovations to more than $8 million. The county would levy property taxes to pay for it.