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County lost in the dark 

Between the Lines

Since we're into journalism here, and since the idea for this week's column was covering and commenting on the annual State of the Region Address, let's jump in with the biggest headlines Monday from County Commissioner Dennis Hisey's 18-minute presentation to about 200 choir members — excuse me, community leaders — at the Antlers Hilton.

1. "We are still in an economic slump ... however, we are positioned for big moves in the year ahead."

2. Because it's no longer appropriate to refer to the county-purchased buildings on Garden of the Gods Road as "Intel" or "Corporate Ridge," county employees should be invited into a contest to re-name that complex.

3. After committing to more than $50 million for relocating county offices, the commissioners still don't know where they and county administration will move.

Uh, wait. The first two were silly, but what was that last one again?

On Monday, it was a quick throwaway line in Hisey's sugarcoated pep talk. But as we heard Tuesday at the commissioners' meeting, they haven't decided whether to move the county's headquarters to the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department, east of Memorial Park on International Circle, mainly because they still don't know the actual costs. They also seemed surprised that the "unlimited" free parking there actually is quite limited.

So, more than six months after we were assured that the county had researched everything about all these relocations, commissioners hastily agreed to hear a proposal next Tuesday, Dec. 21, about possibly moving their offices, and the county administration, into already-vacant downtown office space, perhaps at 15 N. Nevada Ave., or Plaza of the Rockies, both with ample nearby parking.

We also know that Sheriff Terry Maketa will be ready as soon as January to move all of his operations, as planned, into the current County Office Building at the corner of Tejon and Vermijo streets. And that can't happen until the commissioners and administration move out.

Hisey could have devoted some of his remarks Monday to the uncertainty over relocating so many of its operations, and the county's finances. After all, as fellow Commissioner Amy Lathen insisted Tuesday, those elected officials are dedicated to "absolute, total transparency."

(Right. This, after Lathen and her fellow commissioners had appeared to be racing toward the Regional Building idea — which includes paying for extensive renovations at an undetermined cost to move only an estimated 30 people.)

Hisey also could have offered some straight talk about the implications of losing 10 to 15 percent in property tax revenue starting in 2012, which could usurp as much as $7.7 million a year from the county budget.

Instead, we learned that the county wants to come up with a new name for those Intel buildings on Garden of the Gods Road. And only county staff might decide? Not the peon taxpayers? So we're about to see suggestions like the Sallie Clark-Bob Balink Complex. And let's see, since the County Office Building won't serve that purpose anymore, what about calling that Terry Maketa Hall?

As "Ranger" Rich Tosches might have written if he'd been there, "We paid $30 a head for a little chicken and rice, and this? They should have served Red Bull to keep everyone awake."

On Monday, our State of the Region séance looked more like a Chamber of Commerce stocking-stuffer. And on Tuesday, a homeless county commission gifted fresh fodder to critics who have felt all along that the county didn't have its act together in planning this massive shuffle.

At some point, you have to wonder, who's really in charge? The commissioners, hopefully. It's OK to proceed with some departments moving to Garden of the Gods Road. But the commissioners should make the sheriff and everyone else wait — a month, six months, even another year — until they've evaluated all reasonable options and, hopefully, found a way to house themselves without throwing money away in rent.

Since one option might be to move eventually into vacant space at City Hall, depending on the new "strong mayor" and Council, why not hold off until after that new regime takes over?

Of course, if you want to donate a new home for the county commissioners, they might even name the building after you.

routon@csindy.com

  • At some point on Monday or Tuesday, you had to wonder, who's really in charge?

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