Cole County residents have been plagued by the Cole County Commission's poor decisions. Now we are on the edge of another one. Presiding Commissioner Sam Bushman is going to find space for the Public Defender's office downtown. That is like telling a politician to hand out favors to his friends. Bushman owns a store downtown so is very acquainted with the property owners. His renting of a location for giving COVID-19 vaccinations was a disaster. He paid $10,000 per month for use of a storefront in the Capital Mall. After a brief time, the site is open only two days per week. Anyone should have been able to bargain for a lower price since the mall has numerous empty stores. Bushman giving money to a chamber member is another example of a chamber member contributing tax money to another member. This is an example of what the chamber calls "business-friendly."
Now he wants to house the Public Defender's office in one of his buddy's properties with another exorbitant cost to the taxpayer. The obvious solution would have been to put offices into the huge unused half of the Cole County Jail. Another poor decision by Commissioner Mark Ellinger was to not allow the jail to be used for anything else. Therefore a huge amount of money was wasted for a facility that will cost millions of dollars to finish and cannot be used for anything else. That millions of tax dollars could have been used by citizens.
Bushman wants to wait until a decision is made on the Carnegie Building where the Public Defender's office is now located. Ellinger wanted to tear that building down, but smarter people protested and saved it. No decision has been made since then, about 10 years.
The best solution would be to purchase the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce building. It is close to the courthouse. The chamber has always been a champion of downtown so should cooperate. The county has the power to require it to be sold if necessary. There are plenty of buildings available elsewhere for the chamber, which has no need to be close to the courthouse. The Carnegie Building and the chamber building are functioning as offices now. They could be remodeled.
Will we add mismanagement of the Carnegie Building to the already long list?