Editorial: Do-over on Family Court?

Putting the dispute over the (in our editorial opinion) shamelessly shill-y wording of the Family Court referendum aside for a second, there’s a good reason why voters might think about coloring in the “no” box.

There seems to be no firm idea of how much moving the court to the Business Resource Center, or for that matter how much fixing up its existing Lucas Avenue digs, will actually end up costing.

Go back to the front page and read the story for the details on the several reports about the options and their conflicting price tags. Certainty about many things in life, especially how much it costs to renovate buildings, is elusive. But it seems to us that the best argument for moving the Family Court into the Business Resource Center is that doing so would have less long-term impact on taxpayers than staying at the rented Lucas Avenue site and fixing it up would have.

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Key in the considerations is how much the owners would sell the Lucas Avenue building to the county for. A $6 million figure was cited as an asking price by the legislature chairman; a report in the Freeman had a county official testifying that the county was told $8 million. Either figure is a lot more than the $2.5 million the building’s been, according to reports, listed for sale at. Plus the cost of moving operations to the BRC has become something of a moving target, heading up toward $10 million and perhaps more. The move to the Town of Ulster has been defended by the Hein administration and the legislature chairman, but the fact that seeming discrepancies only emerged at a recent trial leave enough of a difference, in our editorial opinion, to warrant a re-evaluation of the entire matter. That re-evaluation may find that it’s more cost-effective to stay in Uptown Kingston.

But the only way we’ll ever know is if the referendum on the Nov. 8 ballot is rejected. There’s still a week and change until Election Day; perhaps this issue will become clarified in the coming days and we can whole-heartedly endorse the referendum’s approval. (But we’ll never, not ever, endorse the propagandistic language of the referendum itself.) At this juncture, though — always keeping in mind the legacy of the jail’s runaway costs, the dark chapter in Ulster history that led to the kind of county government we enjoy today — it seems like the BRC move is something of a pig in a poke. And if you should never buy a pig in a poke, you shouldn’t vote for one either.

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