Adding some missing pieces


From: John Adams

Mazeppa, MN.

We attended the December 15, 2009, Wabasha County Board Meeting and would like to add some missing pieces to the county notes regarding the elevator in the old courthouse. This is very much the same elevator that Commissioners Windhorst and Reister insisted could not be built before the new Justice Center was undertaken, and would have saved the county millions of dollars.

David Johnson, the County Administrator, presented his recommendation to the board to install the elevator and one restroom for a mere $269,309.00. Following his recommendation, Commissioner Norman cautioned the board about spending this amount of money at this time. He went on to read the building was ADA compliant as long as programs offered are made accessible. He also stated the elevator would cost in the neighborhood of $300,000 to $400,000.

At that point, Commissioners Windhorst and Riester became extremely agitated with Norman and verbally attacked him. They disrespectfully accused him of many things, including fudging the numbers. When the dust settled, Norman calmly asked the administrator about the related elevator fees like CAM Construction, architect fees, asbestos removal, etc., which were curiously missing from his $269,309 figure.

While Commissioners Windhorst and Reister stared like a deer in the headlights, unwilling or unable to answer Commissioner Norman. Deb Koenig was sent to gather the numbers. Upon her return, she reported the elevator would in fact cost in the neighborhood of $350,000, proving Merl Norman was right and forcing the question as to why the administrator had presented a lower figure and did not include all related expenses for the elevator.

We have known Merl Norman for many years. We have always found him to be a man of integrity and sound judgment. To watch Windhorst and Riester attack his character and not have the courage to apologize once Merl’s concerns were validated, clearly demonstrates a need for new leadership on the County Board. Instead of keeping the best interest of the taxpayer in mind, they seem more concerned over whose ego will win and who can be the biggest bully.

The drama that played out on December 15th would make for a good comedy if the reality of our county leaders wasn’t so discouraging.


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