Save our historic Clay County courthouse

Citizens in Vermillion and Clay County announced today that they have organized opposition to the recently announced $41 million dollar bond issue designed to replace their historic courthouse, law enforcement center and jail which would, if passed, move all the facilities to an undisclosed site. 
Citing a number of issues, the committee, called Save Our Historic Courthouse, hopes to educate the voting public on their concerns in an effort to defeat the bond issue and expand the discussion on solutions to courthouse issues. Among those issues the committee will discuss the following: a level of uncertainty over the future of the current building, a lack of protections should it be abandoned, project cost inconsistencies, the need to build a new law enforcement and jail facility on or off the current site, as well as the need for a strategic plan on restoring and preserving the existing historic courthouse.
Former Vermillion mayor and President of the Clay County Historical Society, Dan Christopherson said, “We do not oppose the need for a new jail and law enforcement center or the necessity of providing a safe, comfortable and functional environment for all of our county employees. We are against this particular bond issue because it risks abandonment of our beautiful and historic courthouse as the center for Clay County government.” He also said, “Serious questions are being raised about the 41 million dollar bond issue and its impact on taxpayers, as well as potential economic impacts to downtown businesses.”  
A recent survey of voting citizens showed a preference for the importance of historic preservation over other values, and support for renovation and expansion of existing site facilities versus a totally new facility.  A lack of information on-site location, costs, and other land acquisition issues remains one of many concerns, according to the citizens opposing the bond issue.
Arthur Rusch, former judge, author, and authority on South Dakota courthouses, who also opposes the bond issue, commented on the cost to taxpayers.  “On a $250,000 house in Vermillion the annual tax increase will be just under $400 a year for thirty years. Taxpayer costs could be considerably higher if the City of Vermillion is required to contribute an additional $6.2 million dollars to the project.” He continued, “If we need a new jail then build a new jail, but we can’t do that and abandon our historic courthouse. It is not necessary for security purposes that a jail and courts be in the same building.” Rusch continued, “Clay County hired architects to study the courthouse at a cost of $68,970 and the firm specifically recommended against the idea of building a complete new courthouse at a remote site because it was the most expensive option. Yet here we are being told we need a large bond to do what they recommended against.” 
Save Our Historic Court House supporters have indicated a willingness to work with county leaders to develop more reasonable solutions to the courthouse
issues facing Clay County.       
Contact: Patrick Gross (605) 670-9952
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Published in: on April 21, 2021 at 2:06 pm  Comments Off on Save our historic Clay County courthouse