Make do with$9.3 million

Poor Madison County. Its leaders just don’t know how they will get by with only $9.3 million to spend on jail renovations.

County leaders had planned to borrow $18.8 million for the project, but that grand plan evaporated when the voters refused to authorize the borrowing. The $9.3 million is coming from the county’s surplus of tax dollars previously collected.

At a recent meeting, county Administrator Joe Parente lamented that police cars will continue to have to wait to drop off prisoners at peak times because there isn’t money for a new sally port, among other things. “The systems are going to fail, the plumbing will continue to fail, and we will have lawsuits from failing to meet code,” he said.

Finances are tight throughout Illinois, and cities and counties all over have had to postpone or cancel capital projects. A lot of those places would love to have the problem of having a $9.3 million surplus to spend.

Instead of bemoaning what isn’t getting done, Parente and other county leaders need to focus on prioritizing what they will do. At the top of the list should be fixing the things that have the greatest chance of getting the county sued. If police officers have to drive around the block a few times while they wait to unload a prisoner, that is not the worst thing in the world.