February 18, 2012
Sullivan’s Salvos 2/21/12
In this edition:
*Bowl For Kid’s Sake
*Did You Know?
*Bowl For Kids’ Sake
It is an annual tradition that a Sullivan for Supervisor team competes in the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Bowl For Kids’ Sake fundraiser. This is the big weekend!
BBBS is a wonderful organization with fabulous staff that does great work in our community. They get by on a shoestring budget, and Bowl For Kids’ Sake is their major annual fundraiser.
We’d love to have your help! You can sponsor our team by going to http://bbbsjc.kintera.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=999805, or just reply to this e-mail and tell me what you’d like to pledge.
Johnson County has been presented with an interesting opportunity known as the “1105 Project”. I have some strong feelings on this; first, here is the background.
The former Johnson County Public Health building sits at 1105 Gilbert Court, next door to the Crisis Center. Since Johnson County opened the new Health and Human Services building a couple years ago, that building has sat empty.
The County has discussed selling the property, and got an appraisal. The property was deemed to be worth about $550,000.
Recently, a group of local nonprofits have proposed that Johnson County sell the building to the Crisis Center at a very reduced rate. They would then repurpose the building to meet a variety of health and human services needs. They have nicknamed this effort the “1105 Project”.
The Crisis Center is spearheading this effort, but the major beneficiary would be Free Lunch. The Domestic Violence Intervention Project (DVIP) and National Alliance on Mentally Illness of Johnson County (NAMI-JC) would also be collaborating on the building.
I am familiar with all 4 of these local nonprofits. They all do great work, and they all desperately need space. I am EXTREMELY pleased that they have taken on this initiative. They are thinking big – but perhaps not big enough!
I have long argued that local nonprofits need to collaborate in a number of areas. Think about board meeting rooms. Most boards meet ten or so times per year. Do they each need their own boardroom? How about payroll? What if all our local nonprofits used one local company for taxes, accounting, and payroll? Surely we would trade some minor inconveniences for significant savings. What about a single, negotiated printing contract? Shared insurance? Financial audits? Copiers? Computers? Janitorial? Could some co-locate, and even share receptionists, restrooms, and storage space? The list goes on and on.
By doing these things collaboratively, we should be able to reduce overhead. That means a greater percentage of donor dollars go toward actual services. Every agency loses a tiny bit of control, but gets more directed resources in exchange.
While this sounds simple, there are some very real obstacles to overcome. Funders have never seriously pushed the nonprofits to go this route; that is why I love to see this happening voluntarily! Again, my only issue is that it may not go far enough! (More on that later.)
The former Public Health building presents a couple interesting scenarios. One argument is the taxpayers bought the building over a number of years. If it is now unused, it should be sold, and the County should use the revenues to offset taxes. Then the new entity would (presumably) pay new real estate taxes on the property.
On the other hand, the building has been paid off for decades. If we poured the proceeds from a sale into property tax relief next year, it would save the average homeowner roughly 8 cents per $1,000. So for a single year, the owner of a $100,000 home would see taxes reduced $8. That is 67 cents per month. That is something, but not much. It is fair to argue that the property has much greater public value by being repurposed that by simply being sold.
I am definitely willing to consider a project of this nature, but a couple conditions must be met to garner my support.
I believe either Johnson County must continue to own the building, or the building needs to be sold to the United Way. Alternatively, the property could be sold with a requirement that it be used for charitable purposes for a minimum of ten or more years. I believe this for a few of reasons:
First, I cannot see awarding a couple hundred thousand to the Crisis Center when Johnson County supports dozens of worthy nonprofits. Lots of those nonprofits have space needs. All have financial needs. This would be more equitable, while allowing additional nonprofits the opportunity to use the space. If we are going to do this, let’s do it right. Let’s create a space that really addresses lots of community needs.
Secondly, by keeping the building, we could allow the 1105 plan to move forward, but maintain ownership/control of the property. Why is this important? Because I have been burned before. I trusted a fellow Supervisor, a Coralville Councilor, a North Liberty Councilor, a former Coralville Councilor, and two former Iowa City Councilors to do the right thing in terms of the Joint Emergency Communications Center (JECC). They betrayed that trust, and betrayed the public interest. So I will not risk giving up control of the public tax dollars or a public good ever again. The 1105 project needs to go on in a building owned by either Johnson County or the United Way. If sold, it must be sold with several contingencies.
Thirdly, while I support the location as home to Free Lunch, I want to make sure that we could incorporate our local foods initiatives into the building. I see some potential synergies there, but I would want to make sure this can all fit together.
Actually, I would be willing to entertain just giving the building away, assuming that some conditions can be met. As I mentioned earlier, the community benefit from such a facility can far outpace the financial benefit derived from a sale.
So – what are your thoughts? Should the 1105 Project move forward? Should there be any conditions? Please let me know what you think!
*DID YOU KNOW? Many across the newly formed United States celebrated Washington's Birthday in the 17th century while Washington was still alive. However, it wasn't until 1885 that Chester Arthur signed the bill that made it a federal holiday.
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