County bonding request sent back to board as is
The St. Croix County Administration Committee voted to send $8.4 million in bonding again to the county board without changes, after the board sent it back to the committee level on a 12-5 vote May 7.
The main item of concern in the three-part borrowing request was a new mobile command vehicle.
The command vehicle makes up $400,000 of the request, alongside a new wing in the jail to accommodate inmates with mental health issues as well as a heating-air-conditioning-and-ventilation (HVAC) overhaul to the Government Center.
Committee Chair David Peterson suggested at the May 13 meeting that the county look at purchasing a trailer to fill the needs of the mobile command center instead.
County Administrator Patrick Thompson said Emergency Support Services Director Steve T'Kach provided feedback that would not recommend a trailer.
Thompson said the county would have to purchase a vehicle capable of pulling the size and eight of the trailers. It also would not allow for the preliminary work en route to a scene that staff currently conducts in the motor coach-style vehicle.
The current generator would also not be sized appropriately for a trailer. Additionally the size of the trailer plus the weight could be challenging to maneuver in tight spots, Thompson said.
Thompson said the county also looked at purchasing a used vehicle. Any used option it purchased though would be stripped, meaning the county would have to pay the $100,000 to equip it in addition to the sale price, an expensive proposition for a vehicle with wear and tear, Thompson said. Used options also don't stay on the market long.
Thompson said the committee could pull the project if they felt there was not support politically, but he did not recommend doing so.
"I did my homework on these projects and what I recommend to the board, I will stand by," he said.
If the board pulls the new vehicle, the county will continue to maintain its current vehicle with considerable dollars, Thompson said.
"And the board will have to wrestle with this request in future years because it's not going to go away," he said.
At that point the county will no longer have access to $100,000 in phase two dollars that would be applied to the purchase, and will also be dealing with inflationary cost and unknown interest rates, Thompson said.
Supervisor Roy Sjoberg said he believed the other two pieces of the borrowing request, the jail expansion and the HVAC overhaul, would have sailed through board approval if not for this mobile command vehicle piece.
Scott Needham, St. Croix County Circuit Court's presiding judge, spoke to the full board May 7 about the need for the jail expansion to accommodate inmates with health issues. The $5.3 million expansion would create 10 new cells for inmates awaiting competency evaluations, as well as those experiencing substance withdrawals.
That need has grown in recent years, with courts ordering 60 competency evaluations in 2018, compared to 10 in 2015.
Sheriff Scott Knudson said with the expansion, the jail would last "well into the future."
Sjoberg told the administration committee he'd like to see staff prepare a two-part proposal that includes bonding options both with and without the vehicle.
Thompson said the board can choose to remove the vehicle, or the committee can do so during its meeting, but it does not need to send two options to the board. If the board chooses to pull it, Thompson said staff will be prepared to do that.
Supervisor Dan Fosterling said it would be nice to have a cheaper path, but that didn't seem to be an option.
Peterson said he preferred to refer it back to the board as is, and the committee unanimously agreed.
"If they chose to remove it, so be it," Peterson said.