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Etc.: More building$
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In Congress, a Congressman who wants to say something more asks the speaker of the House to “revise and extend” his or her remarks.

I find myself having to do that after writing last week’s column in your favorite weekly newspaper about all the proposed building projects in the area.

Those who wonder why I’m commenting on Grant County’s buildings in Lancaster need to remember that if you live in Grant County, you are paying for Grant County government, including its old and potential new buildings, wherever you live within our 1,147.9 square miles.

A letter on this page picks out the problems with building the jail and Sheriff’s Office in downtown Lancaster. The letter does not mention something I did last week, about the inconvenience in accessing the jail and Sheriff’s Office for people who do not live in Lancaster. It does mention numerous negative aspects of locating the jail and Sheriff’s Office downtown, including getting rid of a couple of blocks of property tax-paying buildings to build a law enforcement complex. It suggests building the jail and Sheriff’s Office at the county property that includes Orchard Manor and the Grant County Social Services building south of Lancaster.

(Remember that Grant County presently has surplus building space, because the Administration Building’s top floor remains unused. The top floor has never been used since the building went up. There was some logic in building an extra floor in anticipation of needing the space, but the county probably should have considered the extra floor harder given that it has been wasted space since that building opened. And when a consultant lauds building space that has never been used, that makes me wonder about the consultant.)

Related to the courthouse issue in Lancaster is the issue of Lancaster’s hospital. The editor of the Grant County Herald Independent made a sensible suggestion last week of a space swap, with Grant County Social Services, Unified Services, the Aging and Disability Resource Center and possibly the Health Department going to the current Grant Regional Health Center property south of downtown Lancaster and the hospital then building at the Orchard Manor site. Other than the fact that Grant Regional owns its current property, it does not make sense to expand an old building at a landlocked location when the new hospitals built in Southwest Wisconsin in the past decade either moved to new facilities (that is, Southwest Health in Platteville and Crossing Rivers Health in Prairie du Chien) or weren’t land-locked near downtown in the first place (Upland Hills Health in Dodgeville).

In case you read The Journal last week and wondered if the Common Council was serious about a referendum for the city’s building needs: The fourth of the “2016 Themes and Goals” of the budget PowerPoint at Monday’s Common Council meeting says: “Explore future referendum for City Hall and Fire Station building needs.”)

It is not necessarily true that a referendum shows what people think about the body of government holding it; the Platteville Public Schools referendum easily passed, and yet eight people ran for three School Board seats last year. I have not taken any sort of poll, but I can tell you just from conversations I’ve had in the past couple weeks that the amount of public support for Municipal Building work is slightly north of zero. 

I wrote last week about the need for governments to creatively think about their building needs. Younger readers may not realize that the Municipal Building (I do not call it City Hall because those words aren’t on the building; “Municipal Building” is there on the front, clear as crystal) used to house both the Fire Department and the Police Department. (The north-side windows look like garage doors if you look hard enough.) Some communities even now have buildings that serve government and public safety functions. The auditorium seems to me the nicest feature of the building.

So here’s an idea: The fundraising campaign for the Rountree Branch Trail is concluding, to be followed by a campaign for furnishings for the Platteville Public Library. Maybe when that’s done another fundraising campaign should be started for the $4.5 million or so of Municipal Building work, even though it’s not really an historic building. (On the other hand, it’s there because of some governmental arm-twisting that would have made Donald Trump proud after the previous city hall burned to the ground.) 

There goes my Christmas present: Two weeks ago, because of my inability to type the first five letters of “grandfather,” I inadvertently killed my own father in print. He is still alive, and he got to see his grandson act with fabulosity (inside joke, and I’m not even sure that’s a word) at the fabulous Platteville Middle School presentation of “Alice in Wonderland, Jr. Hasta la vista. (Also an inside joke.)