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County Judge candidate Hogan blasts Commissioners decision to increase courthouse funding

Jerry Hogan

By J.J. Smith. Rockwall County Judge candidate Jerry Hogan today blasted last Thursday’s 4-1 decision by County Commissioners to increase the cost of the proposed new County courthouse from $30 million to 37.2 million as “totally irresponsible” and as “a total disaster in terms of fiscal conservatism.”

He said the decision again displayed “the arrogance of the Commissioners Court” by ignoring what voters have repeatedly said they do not want.

He was referring to how Rockwall County voters overwhelmingly voted down bond elections in 2004 and 2005 to build a new Rockwall County Justice Center between the present library and I-30, where the now scaled-down Courthouse is set to be built, after $30 million worth of tax notes were issued by Commissioners in 2008 to finance the project.

Commissioner Lorie Grinnan voted against the increase. Commissioners David Magness, Jerry Wimpee, Dennis Bailey and County Judge Chris Florance voted for it.

“I think this was totally irresponsible,” the long-time Heath resident and former corporate executive said.

“It showed once again the arrogance of the Commissioners’ Court, in ignoring what the citizens have said, and I believe that everyone who knows about this decision will very quickly come to the decision that either the Commissioners Court does not know what the citizens want - because they don’t listen to them - or they totally ignore them. A very disappointing evening in my view.”

The retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel and ”Military View” columnist said he felt Commissioners made a “very, very bad decision” and should have decided to start all over again.

“It looks to me like they had three choices: they could either  re-design the building and start all over, they could try to find a way to raise the extra $7.2 million, or they could start making some modifications on the building to reduce the cost of the existing building.”

“My choice would be to start all over. Redesign a building that is $30 million or less,” he said.

According to Hogan, it was not the architect’s fault for the building’s cost, but the direction given by Commissioners.

“I believe that it was because the Commissioners did not understand how to build a building like this. They gave the architect instructions that they wanted to build a $30 million building. And the architect went off and designed a building that was going to cost $30 million.”

“What they forgot, however, was the furniture was going to cost a million and a half dollars, landscaping had to be done, driveways and parking had to be done, impact fees had to be paid.

We don’t want to spend more than $30 million, not that we want a $30 million dollar building. That was the correct decision.”

“So it was not the architect’s problem but it was the direction given by the Commissioners Court,” he said.

The candidate praised Grinnan for being the only Commissioner to vote against the increase and for pointing out that by dipping into the reserve fund to pay for the increase that the County could be risking its AAA bond rating.

“Fiscal conservatism went out the window last night, and Lorie Grinnan was the only Commissioner that voted against it.”

“One of the commissioners,  Lorie Grinnan, pointed out – quite rightly so – that if they raised the price of the building to $37.2 million and pulled the money to do that out of the reserve, it could put the reserve, based on forecasts the next year, to the point that we could be losing our AAA bond rating.”

“The other Commissioners paid little attention to what she said and they voted to raise the debt to $37.2 million to build this Justice Center just exactly where the voters twice said we didn’t want it.”

He claims that what County Commissioners need to do is get back to fiscal conservatism.

“So now we have a building, as citizens, that we didn’t want at 30 million. Now we’re gonna’ have a building that we don’t want at 37.2 million – a total disaster in terms of fiscal conservatism - and today that’s what we need, to get back to fiscal conservatism in government.”

“In my opinion, as a fiscal conservative, it’s bad enough that we’re obligated to $30 million. We certainly don’t want to spend $37.2.”

“It was time to say, “Okay, guys, we made a mistake, let’s look at the building design, let’s cut it down to where we can build it for what we’ve allocated. We know that the citizens don’t want a $30 million building. They certainly don’t want $37.2. A very, very bad decision in my opinion.”

He added that he was further amazed at the meeting with how much time Commissioners spent trying to answer such silly questions as, “Do we make the arches brick versus stone” or “Do we put stone accent pieces on the building?” rather than addressing the central issue of the building coming in at $7.2 million over budget.

“The decision that was made Thursday night was like straightening the deck chairs on the Titanic,” he said.

See Hogan’s unedited statements on video at:

http://www.youtube.com/user/TheRockwallNews

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1 Response for “County Judge candidate Hogan blasts Commissioners decision to increase courthouse funding”

  1. Back in 1999, county commissioners in neaby Ellis County were told repeatedly (at the polls) that we didn’t want a new administration building OR a jail annex.

    Commissioners did it anyway, passed a tax note and the new facility in downtown Waxahachie had to be razed. Now a new facility (this one actually approved by voters in 2007) sits in its place.

    We censured the Republicans (via the local party) who voted for this and defeated the last Democrat who stuck us.

    Tsk, tsk.

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