To the Editor:
On behalf of Taxpayers for Responsible Spending, I’m disappointed by the April 30, 2013 announcement from the Dallas County Board of Supervisors that East Adel (“Ortonville”) has been selected as the location for a proposed administration and jail/public safety facility.
While I understand that Dallas County is quickly outgrowing its current administrative and public safety facilities, and the continuation of leasing additional space isn’t a good long-term solution, I urge the Dallas County Supervisors to consider alternatives that would enable the administrative offices to remain in the heart of Adel.
Taxpayers for Responsible Spending (of which I’m a member), the Adel City Council, Adel residents, and Adel business leaders alike believe it’s crucial to the city’s future to retain county administrative offices – not only so they can provide patrons to businesses, stores and restaurants, but so that the County’s administrative facilities remain centralized for the convenience of all County residents. In the official announcement, Board Chairman Mark Hanson said “the bulk of the people” that frequent Dallas County administrative offices are coming from West Des Moines, Clive and Waukee. Hence this is the Board’s main reasoning for relocating to East Adel’s Ortonville, which is a few miles closer to these towns. Hanson also said Dallas County has grown in a way “few people would have predicted even 20 years ago.” True. But if we apply the same logic, how can we predict how the population of Dallas County will shift and grow in the next 20, 50 or 100+ years? Isn’t it safe to assume the County’s population will increase in areas where there’s the most land available for growth? I see the most potential for Dallas County’s long-term population growth to occur in towns other than West Des Moines, Clive and Waukee. And should we move our public offices every time there’s a population shift? If so, let’s relocate our nation’s capital to the Southeast, where the population is currently on the rise.
In 2000, the Dallas County Board of Supervisors passed and approved an Urban Renewal Plan for the very Ortonville land now slated for the new administration and public facility. Their plan for the land was to “take advantage of an opportunity to attract new private development and increase the tax base,” according to public records. Again, I challenge the Board to defend its decision. Wouldn’t it make more sense to reserve the Ortonville land for private industry, rather than fill it with public buildings, if the intended outcome of its acquisition was to increase the County’s tax base?
In a joint meeting on April 29, 2013, Taxpayers for Responsible Spending, the Adel City Council, Adel residents and Adel business leaders met with the Supervisors to voice our concerns. We, along with Dallas County Supervisor Kim Chapman, proposed the former Adel Middle School property for the administrative office expansion. The Adel DeSoto Minburn School Board agreed to explore offering land to Dallas County. It was a win-win proposition: Dallas County would get the land for a new administrative building, the City of Adel would get to keep its county administrative offices downtown, just two blocks away from the Dallas County Courthouse. The group requested that the Board postpone its plan for a June 21, 2013 public referendum on the issue by just 12 weeks in order that a facility study and other preparatory work could be conducted. Unfortunately, the Supervisors denied our request the following day and, within hours, issued a press release announcing they had unanimously selected the East Adel Ortonville location. They also immediately launched an entire website dedicated to the promotion of the location (www.dallascountyfuture.com). The website was developed prior to the announcement by a public relations firm contracted by Dallas County for $25,000 to inform the public on the project. Clearly, the Dallas County Supervisors are determined to abandon the heart of Adel, and had already made up their minds prior to the April 29 meeting. Twelve weeks wouldn’t have hindered public administration in Dallas County, but it would have allowed enough time to explore a sound option that would keep Dallas County administration in the heart of Adel, where it belongs.