Archive for Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Treasurer’s satellite office to close

January 29, 2003

Douglas County Commissioners reluctantly went along with a plan by County Treasurer Pat Wells Monday and effectively voted to close the Baldwin City treasurer's satellite office.

It was part of $1.5 million in budget cuts that commissioners made. The Baldwin office was only a $10,000 item, but Wells stood her ground against a plan by Baldwin city officials to have the services provided through their office. Now the 6,000 county residents that paid their taxes at the satellite office will have to make the trek to Lawrence to take care of business.

Although disappointed, Nancy Barnes, the motor vehicle/tax clerk at the Baldwin office, said the closure wasn't a surprise.

"Nope, I knew it was coming," Barnes said Tuesday morning. "I have a lot of disappointed people, a lot of unhappy people here. I wish there was something we could do about it.

"They have been threatening to close this office for quite some time, so we knew it was inevitable," she said. "A lot of people wrote, called and e-mailed their concerns to the county commissioners, but evidently that didn't sway them."

She said that the problem with the plan to have Baldwin City employees handle the taxes and tags involved lack of training. County commissioners weren't happy with Wells' decision to close the Baldwin office and may close the other satellite offices as well.

"I'm very disappointed in our treasurer," said Commissioner Charles Jones. "This is an attitude of disregard for the public interest, in my opinion. It's not this particular lease. It's an attitude."

Commissioner Bob Johnson, who represents the Baldwin area, was also displeased by the plan.

"We obviously have a treasurer who isn't willing to be playing on our team, for the citizens of Douglas County. And that really disappoints me," Johnson said.

Baldwin Mayor Ken Hayes was also unhappy, especially after the work put in by the city staff to try and keep those services here.

"I'm very disappointed and we as a city worked really hard to try and come to a compromise to keep it here," Hayes said. "Unfortunately, the county treasurer wouldn't work with it. I couldn't think of anything else we could do to keep it here. Once again, Baldwin comes in last place in the county."

Wells told commissioners that she opposed the plan because it was simply against the law. The law states that only county treasurers can accept tax payments and do other county business. The commissioners had a bill ready for submission to the Legislature that would have sought to change that.

Hayes also said the city had offered to find space for a treasurers employee to conduct the business at City Hall. That didn't work, either, he said.

Barnes said she wasn't sure when the satellite office would close.

"We don't know," she said. "I asked her (Wells) yesterday, but she didn't know. Probably by the end of the month.

"I hate to see it taken away from the elderly here," said Barnes. "With the retirement community growing, I think it's a great loss. But, we can't seem to sway them (commissioners)."

Barnes, who has been with the county for a long time, doesn't think she'll lose her job.

"She (Wells) assured me I would not," Barnes said. "I have 16 years in."

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