Commissioners face off on DSS

Published 1:04 pm Friday, August 27, 2010

Construction recently began for a new Polk County Department of Social Services (DSS) building, but that hasn’t ended the controversy over the building among Polk County commissioners.

Commissioners Cindy Walker,&bsp; Ray Gasperson and Rene McDermott submitted to the Bulletin a joint statement about the building responding to what they say are recent unprovoked partisan attacks on them (see pg. 5).

Walker, Gasperson and McDermott defend their decisions to move forward on the project. Their statement says they have been been described as fiscally irresponsible, and those claims are based on misleading and plainly deficient claims.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The three say that some are saying the building is over budget, which is just plain false. The county agreed to spend up to $2 million and if there is a budget this early, the $2 million is the budget and that number has not been exceeded, say the three commissioners.

Commissioner Tommy Melton also submitted a statement addressing the issue (see p. 10) in response to a recent letter to the editor by resident Jerry Hardvall (see the Wednesday, Aug. 11 Bulletin). Melton says he is in favor of a new building, but he thinks that the proposed building is too large and has too many empty offices planned.

I want to see this building get built as much as anyone in this county, Melton writes. However, from the beginning, I have had certain convictions and reservations about the size of the building.

Other letters from residents and candidates for commissioner regarding the building and its costs have also been published recently, supporting either Walker, Gasperson and McDermott or Melton and commissioner Warren Watson.

Walker, Gasperson and McDermott have formed the majority on the Polk County Board of Commissioners on the topic of the new building. Most decisions regarding the new building have been split, with Walker, Gasperson and McDermott voting one way and&bsp; commissioners Melton and Watson voting the other.

The topic has quickly become an issue in the upcoming election, in which three commissioner seats will be decided. The seats of Gasperson, a Democrat, Melton, an Independent and Watson, an Independent, are being challenged by Democrats Margaret Johnson and Benny Smith and Republicans David Moore, Ted Owens and Tom Pack.