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Resource center fails at the polls

Vote totals by voting location for the Jackson County Resource Center project vote.

11:21 p.m. update

Jackson County residents vote 1657-717 Tuesday night against the project

JACKSON -- Residents of Jackson County opted not to fund the building of a new Jackson County Resource Center, voting 1,657 to 717 against the project Tuesday in a county-wide election.

"I'm disappointed," said Roger Ringkob, chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners about the outcome of the vote, noting the county had been working on the issue of the aging Jackson County Resource Center for about seven years.

About 70 percent of Tuesday's votes were against the project, and only in one precinct -- Round Lake Township -- did more people vote in favor of the project than against it, with 12 voting for it and 7 against.

The existing resource center was built as a school in 1938, with an extension of the school added on in 1962. Building committees, a citizens' committee and the county board have all asked whether the county should renovate one or both old buildings or tear both down and build a new resource center in their place. Recent discussion focused also on the county's cramped Human Services building.

"The people have spoken and so the bond will not go forward," said Loren Tusa, a Jackson County Commissioner.

The most recent proposal was a $7 million project that would have required voters to pass a $5.2 million referendum to fund a new 34,700-square-foot building, scaled down from previous building projects but still including space for the county's Human Services department.

County residents' taxes would not have been increased if the referendum had passed. Instead, the bonds would have been paid back with wind production tax revenue, money from taxes received after the JOBZ program ends, federal dollars for Human Services cost recovery and savings on utility and operations costs.

"We've had the citizens' committee and lots of staff time and commissioners' time, and we thought we had a good plan to move forward," Ringkob said. "And it was the cheapest plan. We cut the size of the building down and we still have a need. That need has not been taken care of."

Ringkob said he and the other commissioners would have to sit back and look at the county's options in order to decide what to do next.

"What has always concerned me is the service to the citizens of the county. You have to remember we are operating in buildings that are not handicapped-accessible," Tusa said, worrying the county could be sued because of its buildings' accessibility issues. "I just don't want (to pay for) a building twice, once through a lawsuit and once through bricks and mortar."

The Jackson County Resource Center project has been voted down, with 717 yes votes to 1657 no votes.

More information will be posted as it becomes available.