Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Guest Opinion - Mike Stegall, Planning for the Future

I’m posting the following at the request of a campaign committee member for Mike Stegall. He is the Republican candidate for Darke County Commissioner. It should be noted that there are three other candidates for this position. I have extended an offer to use this blog to the Democrat candidate for commissioner, David Niley, and Independent candidate, Keith Smith. Neither has chosen yet to avail himself of it. The other Independent candidate is reportedly not sure he is going to stay in the race. If he chooses to stay, I’ll make the same offer to him.
It is the responsibility of voters to know who they are voting for and their stand on the issues. It is the responsibility of the candidates to make this information available to voters.

Planning for the Future
By Mike Stegall
Republican Candidate for Darke County Commissioner

Everybody makes plans.  We plan for college. We plan for a new car. We plan for a new house. We plan for retirement. We even make plans for dinner.  We all make these plans hoping that they will come true.  Sometimes, however, we have to change our plans. Maybe the timing is wrong, or maybe that raise in salary we were planning on didn’t happen.  Possibly, someone became ill, or changed jobs and moved.  Whatever the reason, plans are made, and plans change.  No plan should be totally rigid without some wiggle room in case things change. 
Everybody makes plans, including elected officials. Planning for the future of Darke County is essential for its growth and well-being.  The commissioners make budgets and growth plans based on what they know at the time and what they can predict by past trends.  Sometimes they work out; sometimes they don’t. 
Take the courts building for example.  Four years ago, the plan was to build a new courts building behind the existing courthouse.  The money would come from a one-half percent sales tax increase and from the capital improvements fund.  This would be a new, three-story structure behind the old courthouse connected by a walkway.  Four years ago, this was a solid plan. Times change.  Due to some unexpected expenses and the economy turning slower than predicted, the revenue was not there for this project. So what did the commissioners do?  The same thing we all do: changed their plan! 
Now the plan is to use what grant money is available from the federal and state governments and money from the capital improvements fund as it becomes available.  The commissioners realize that going into further debt for a project like this would be very foolish. They also realize that they cannot raise taxes either. The plan they have now does neither one.  The plan takes what is available and uses it.  The Commissioners were smart enough to allow for a change in plans, and they are to be applauded for that. 
I have heard all kinds of stories from people about the new courts building ranging from, “They are going to put us further in debt,” to, “that darn building will cost us 15 million dollars!”  One of my favorites was, “This can’t be done!” 
Allow me to address these three statements.  First, they are not going to put us further in debt. They realize that adding more debt would be damaging the future of the county.  If anyone tells you they are adding debt, have them call the commissioners and ask for themselves.  They will be shocked to find out that the commissioners try to run the county like their own households, on a budget and responsibly.  Second, the plan that I saw four years ago, and just recently, put the total cost between 6 and 9 million dollars.  A lot of money for sure, but nowhere near the numbers I have heard people repeat to me.  Last, but not least, IT CAN BE DONE!  If people can build a house a little at a time as they get the money, (my mother and grandfather did when my dad was in the service) why can’t the commissioners work on the courthouse and courts building a little at a time? 
The plan now is to tear down the old buildings behind the courthouse, build a parking lot, and start refurbishing the old courthouse.  The money for this project is coming from the NSP (neighborhood stabilization program), which is a grant, and the rest from the capital improvements fund.  The best part about this plan is the NSP Grant.  The state is giving us back some of our money! We send money to Washington and Columbus all the time, and it is always nice to get some back. This plan is workable and addresses a need.  That need is for modernizing and making more room in our 136-year-old courthouse.
I like the plan. The only question that must be asked every day is, “Is this still what we need?”  If the answer is yes, then continue.  If the answer is no, in that we need something bigger, smaller, taller, shorter, not at all, etc., the commissioners will do what we all do: CHANGE OUR PLANS!!

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