Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan said he wants an $18 million jail renovation paid for with bonds. This back-door referendum, which would be illegal in Missouri, is a favorite means of financing Illinois politicians' pet projects without taxpayers approval through property taxes and keeps the power in politicians' hands.
Our jail, built piecemeal over the years, is in need of repair. Although I wonder about the quality of preventive maintenance, I have other questions. Could improvements be made in increments using the surplus of current funds in the county treasury? If surplus funds aren't used for the jail, does Dunstan desire to use the surplus for another project like our magnificent county courthouse? Therefore, is Dunstan's request for bonds really a request to fund a jail and a courthouse renovation project?
Which architects, engineers and construction companies will be used to renovate the jail? Will sealed bid contracts be used or will big donors to Madison County officeholders' campaigns be used without a bidding process?
Do you remember the recent rigging of tax sales by former Treasurer Fred Bathon, who received approximately $140,000 in campaign contributions from taxbuyers? U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton said: "This crime exploited financially-distressed homeowners who were at risk of losing their homes for the financial gain of political contributors." It seemed strange officeholders in Madison County didn't notice and report Bathon.
Should voters weigh in at the ballot box about an issue this big?
Philip W. Chapman