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Government center: Pin it down

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Editorial, Aug. 5, 2012

By Sarah Reddoch

ISSUE: County budget

OUR VIEW: Time to commit to a plan

Judge-Executive Harry Berry was correct when he said state and federal governments could learn a few things about management of taxpayer money from local governments in Hardin County. The county, Elizabethtown and Radcliff each ended the year with surplus cash that has been added to various reserve accounts. All should be lauded for those results.

Hardin County deposited nearly $250,000 of that surplus cash into its general reserve fund, which has grown to $13.7 million.

The other side of the balance sheet also shows good news. The county’s debt sits at $13.5 million, primarily for Pearl Hollow Landfill financing.

The county has tapped only about 10 percent of its bonding authority. In layman’s terms, that means the county has enough financial standing to borrow as much as $129 million, according to Berry’s end-of-year fiscal report.

Once again, we must give credit where it is due —  Berry has been an excellent administrator.
But the question arises of what, if anything, can be accomplished with that bonding authority. That’s where Fiscal Court magistrates must step up.

Taxpayers around here like to keep track of every penny, and this year’s spending plan includes $500,000 to design a new government center.

When Berry first raised the idea of building a new government center, he proposed a site on Ring Road, triggering a backlash about “deserting” downtown Elizabethtown. Discussion around this recent design expenditure showed magistrates still are not committed to any particular site. Berry assured them the design does not have to be site-specific.

Without a specified site, this “design” expenditure is at risk of becoming an expensive attempt to garner magistrates’ support for Berry’s plan, giving them a crutch to lean on when making one of the most, if not the most, important decisions they ever will face on Fiscal Court. They will be able to say, “well, the study showed…”

This isn’t “Family Feud” where the most popular answers are prized. Indeed, the most popular answer could be disastrous. The best answer is what’s needed.

The site decision has enormous and lasting implications for Hardin County’s future, and the answer needs to come from the elected members of Fiscal Court. It’s time for them to make a decision whether a new government center is needed, and if so, where should it be located.

Without clear direction from magistrates, that $500,000 will not be well spent.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.