Ward County has been seeking voter funding to solve ongoing space issues at the Ward County Courthouse and Ward County Jail for years. Time and again, voters rejected issues on the ballot. Tuesday, the county finally got its wish.
County voters narrowly approved a measure that would create a half-cent sales tax to fund nearly $40 million in projects, including a new office building, jail expansion, courthouse renovations and infrastructure needs. The sales tax will sunset after 10 years, or earlier if the projects are paid for sooner. The tax will not be redirected or extended to pay for any other future projects, county commissioners stressed during the days before Tuesday's vote. The new sales tax will end when the stated projects are funded.
It's been a long process to secure voter approval for funding for the office building and jail expansion. But the needs have been real for a number of years. The courthouse offices are overcrowded, and have been for a long time. The jail has become too small with the area's growing population.
With the funding approved, the task of completing the varied projects in a timely manner and within budget falls squarely on the members of the county commission, which after Tuesday includes two new members. Sitting commissioners Jerome Gruenberg and John Fjeldahl welcome re-elected commissioner Jack Nybakken and newcomers Alan Walter and Shelley Weppler to the panel.
The county commissioners will certainly be held accountable by voters. It will be their responsibility to shepherd the long-sought building projects to fruition. Voters gave them what they wanted; now it's time for the commissioners to do their part.