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Our View— County should rethink government center

Lincoln County commissioners recently put a pause on a massive construction project that will cost the county millions upon millions of dollars. They should take it a step further and stop the construction of the County Government Center in its tracks.

The county, facing a budget shortfall of more than $3 million, voted to postpone construction on the County Government Center at the site of the old Lincoln County Hospital on Gamble Drive in Lincolnton in an effort to save some money in the 2018 budget. That move, according to a story published in Friday’s edition, will knock $500,000 out of next year’s budget, but it doesn’t address the final price tag of the project — more than $12 million.

The plan for a consolidated government center was met with near-unanimous opposition, at least publicly, from almost everyone other than those working in county government. Critics, including this newspaper, said the plan to move county offices out of downtown Lincolnton and into a renovated hospital would be impractical and prohibitively expensive, and could do damage to a downtown area that’s already struggling.

What’s more, the county would be spending millions of taxpayer dollars on what’s essentially a luxury item. The county hasn’t come close to outgrowing the Citizens Center. That’s not to say that there aren’t legitimate infrastructure needs facing the county, but those can be addressed in a more fiscally responsible way than the current proposal. And, with the county in a multi-million-dollar budget shortfall, it’s as good a time as any to carefully consider any looming large-scale projects.

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