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Slowing down a political shell game so voters can follow it

Published: Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012 5:00 a.m. CST

To the Editor:

Did you ever see the guys at the carnival run the shell game. They were good. You put a pea under a shell and then they switch the shells around real fast and let you pick the one you think it is under. Which ever one you pick you will lose because while you were trying to follow the pea, they switched it out so there was no pea in any of the shells.

The Voice of the People on Oct. 11 reminded me of that game. Mr. Hazel throws a lot of figures at the reader and when the reader is trying to follow the pea, it is switched out. I will slow the tape down and you will see the switch.

It starts out fairly accurate that the total building projects the county bonded for, with interest included, totaled $20 million. That’s pretty close and I give Mr. Hazel credit that he does include interest in the mix, many do not.

The actual figure for the 2008 bond issue plus the 2010 bond issue is $12,485,000. Interest on the 2008 issue is $7,240,717.50 and the interest on the 2010 bond issue is $2,969,336,17. The total of principal and interest of the two issuances is $21,358,851. Mr. Hazel’s $20 million total is less than 10 percent off, so we are close to agreeing.

Watch close because here is where the pea is switched.

The cost of the 911 center is then listed at $4,607,478, under the budget of $4,727,465. There were actually some carryover bills that pretty much ate up the difference, but $100,000 either way is chicken feed when you are spending millions, so I won’t argue.

But the final taxpayer cost is not $4,607,478, because the interest of the bonds that Mr. Hazel correctly appropriated to the cost of the entire project somehow vanished in the final analysis.

The 911 center is 37.75 percent of the total of the two bond issues, which was $21,358,851. If you take 37.75 perent of the total, you get $8,062,966.20 for the total principal and interest for building the 911 center — the missing pea. Then add $2 million dollars for equipment and you now have a 911 Center in excess of $10 million, the most expensive 911 center in Illinois and certainly one of the costliest in the nation.

I have talked with a number of counties with 911 centers and can’t find one that is even close. I have asked anyone if they could find one that is more expensive in Illinois and have found none yet.

I have known Sheriff Dick Randall from Kendall County for years and we had a common interest — cow/calf operations. He told me that they were in the process of building a 911 center in the basement of their new county building on Route 34 for about $1.3 million. They have more than twice the population that we have at 114,000.

Kankakee County has 115,000 people and bought an empty food store and split it in two, half for their health department and half for the 911 Center — total cost, about $400,000. One county northwest of us bought an old car dealership and turned it into their 911 center for a few hundred thousand dollars.

The point is that other counties seem to get the job done for far less.

I supported the first cost estimate for the 911 center and liked the idea of an emergency telephone system board with a combined dispatch. When the cost came back twice as high as first stated, I voted against it and would have liked to look at other options.

People complain about the cost of the municipal building in Morris, but they did one thing different, they saved the money over time and built it without borrowing, if my information is correct.

Mr. Hazel explains that the 911 center is turning into a revenue generator. Grundy County used to pay about $1.2 million for 911 service. It still pays that same amount every year, plus the cost of the land, plus the cost of insurance, heat, electricity and the annual rent payment to the PBC equal to the bond payment, which this year is about $750,000 and will increase every year until 2031, which will be in the range of $1.6 million.

This is the math that they use in Washington and that is why we are $16 trillion in debt.

Look at it this way, if you are a young couple with a new baby, that boy or girl will be off to college when this debt is paid off. As a matter of fact, on the one bond issue, we pay only interest until 2017.

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