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Kontos Column: Is it too early to say that I called it?

By Dan Kontos

So, most of you are familiar with the long drawn-out saga of the new courthouse, jail, and sheriff’s office.

Whether it has been the inability of the County Board to agree on a solution or secure funding, or the battles with the city of Stevens Point over the location, this story has been going on for decades. I’m so tired of it, I don’t even want to rehash the facts and the timeline anymore. It’s all out there for you to research further, if you need to.

Now, if you have been following this, you know that the County has finally agreed to some improvements, and has acquiesced to consider a stand-alone jail and law enforcement center (LEC), while leaving the courthouse and administrative buildings close to downtown. The City has agreed to sell the County some preferred land in return.

Sounds like progress, right? Well, not so fast.

I’ve known about this latest deal for quite some time. My sources in the City, County, and elsewhere have confirmed the rumors, and we’ve had numerous conversations about this. I was told how optimistic some of the most perpetually pessimistic people were, and how there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

My reply, to paraphrase President Obama (which is something I rarely do,) don’t underestimate the ability of the County and City to screw things up. From what I see, while we are not at another complete loggerhead yet, it appears that I called it.

This time, once again, it’s Stevens Point throwing the monkey wrench into the works. I have seen the City’s offer document and the reply by the County. Brewing is another apparently intransigent mess in the works, and this time frustration may make short work out of the hoping for any cooperative deal.

To my veteran peeps, remember BOHICA? If you know, you know.

Balls and strikes. I call ‘em like I see ‘em, and from my conversations, many of you see it the same way. I can tell you the special exasperation that comes from working with the Stevens Point leadership. Granted, my experience is dealing with the City from a County and State perspective, and they are truly my friends – so the aggravation is well earned.

Full disclosure dictates that I confess that I am not a citizen of Stevens Point, but I do live in Portage County, which is the same for almost two-thirds of the county residents. We are nonetheless impacted by what happens here.

My impression is that the City always looks out for its own self-interest, which is certainly understandable. However, I think that they do it to almost an absolute exclusion of everyone else.  They often forget that they are part of the County as well, and that looking out for the interests of all is also a worthy goal. The time, effort, money, relationships, squandered possibilities, and lost opportunity costs directly impact their citizens too.

By the same token, the County should likewise look out for the interests of the whole county, and cannot afford to favor one segment of the population to the detriment of the rest.

Unlike the courthouse, the jail and any other buildings are not required to be in the county seat. As the only hold on the County moving forward is the never ending litany of shenanigans employed by Stevens Point, perhaps the County Board should consider other options, and stop imposing any additional deleterious and artificial self-restrictions.

In other words, no one says that you have to build anything, other than the main courthouse, in the City. Afterall, the Highway Department is built in the southern part of the Village of Plover, and they seem quite content. The Parks Department is in the Town of Hull. You get the idea.

Another option is to convince the legislators to remove the arcane and useless statutory requirement that anchors the courthouse to the county seat. Afterall, the days of horse and buggy are long gone.

Or, another thought is that the two-thirds of non-City residents who are tired of getting the proverbial shaft decide to move the county seat elsewhere.  It only takes a simple majority during a properly proposed referendum.  I’m just throwing it out there as a crazy idea. You do know it used to be in the Village of Plover, right? If you’ve never heard the story, check this out.

Perhaps the County will use this leverage to convince the City to jump on the do what is best for everyone bandwagon, and drop their unreasonable and insufferable demands. Just maybe.

This endless teeter-totter of who is going to muck up the works next needs to come to an end. This is done by either the City acquiescing to allow the construction without excessive restrictions, or the county employing one of the nuclear options.  Enough is enough. Meanwhile, the taxpayers are getting the short end of the stick once more.

Yup, looks like I called it again. Almost time for some people to pay up on their bets. You know who you are.

So, with that, let’s meet in the opinion section to talk about all of it, boldly, honestly, with an eye towards real solutions, and with a healthy and real respect for each other. Until then, God bless.