County Board acted wisely with eye to the future

ONE OF THE BIGGEST challenges for local government can be long-range planning and foresightedness.

So much of running and financing government on the village, city, town and county level is a matter of day-to-day.

The tight nature of government budgets and the vagaries of revenues often leave little wiggle room for looking out into the future.

But just as in the private sector, prudent management of local government must include the occasional investment in something down the road.

The Sheboygan County Board of Supervisors took just such a step not once, but twice, at their last meeting, to their credit.

One was the high-profile – and big-ticket – purchase of 322 acres of undeveloped land along the Lake Michigan shoreline in the southeast corner of the county, the Amsterdam Dunes property for $4.2 million.

The many positive benefits of that purchase - both for the county and its citizens and for the private sector and economic growth - have already been outlined here and elsewhere. The county should be able to recoup all of the purchase cost – and perhaps more – through grants, private funding and the eventual sale of wetland credits from the property, which should make it a complete positive for all involved.

The other acquisition was a smaller one in terms of dollars, but generated debate and some opposition on the County Board floor.

It was the purchase of a home on Pennsylvania Avenue in the city of Sheboygan, adjacent to the Law Enforcement Center, for $71,000.

The immediate benefit to the county of this purchase will be negligible, at best. The narrow property will only provide a few additional parking spaces, if needed, and the home might serve as temporary housing for clients of the Health and

Human Services Department, if feasible.

The value of the property – which the county will purchase at less than the assessed value – is that it provides the county with a starting point for potential future expansion of the neighboring Law Enforcement Center.

The history of the center and the property shows the often unforeseen negative impact of governments not planning for the long-range future.

As veteran Supervisor Richard Bemis pointed out to his colleagues during the board debate on the purchase, the county could have purchased the row of houses along Pennsylvania Avenue between Fifth and Sixth streets decades ago, at the same time the Law Enforcement Center was built, but chose not to – whether due to financial restraints or lack of foresight.

Now the county is faced with a probable need to expand the center at some future date. It will become the home of the combined dispatch center in the next few years and that, along with growth in the Sheriff’s Department, makes the need to expand the building – or at least provide more parking – quite likely at some future date.

The county at some future date may well be forced to acquire the rest of the properties at a much greater price than would have been paid when the building was first constructed.

But Tuesday’s action will make that at least a little less expensive for the county and taxpayers when that day comes.

And it makes it less likely that, at some future date, a supervisor new to the board now will be still sitting on the board after several decades of service, lamenting the lost opportunity the county let pass to purchase needed land at a much lower price.

At issue:
Amsterdam Dunes, Penn Ave. buys
Bottom line:
Thinking, acting ahead

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