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“Don’t treat my house as if it’s your piggy bank” by Carla Perry, resident of Newport
In Frank Geltner’s Viewpoint (“A Lincoln County Commons of the future”–May 25, 2018 Newport News-Times), he addresses the name of the facility that the County is determined to build: Exhibit Hall, Convention Center, Multi-purpose facility — as if we object to the name. He chastises us, the people of Lincoln County, for objecting to construction of a Convention Center we don’t need, for suggesting we want to move it elsewhere, and because we should just go along with their plan. As Mr. Geltner states, “custom and tradition demands it.” Besides, the County doesn’t want the hundreds of thousands of dollars they have already spent on consultants (using the people’s money) to go to waste.
But Mr. Geltner has missed the point of our objections. We object to the debt The Commons will force on the people of this county. The name of the facility is irrelevant. The issue is money.
• We object to the projected $18 million cost set forth in the consultant’s latest Master Plan. We do not want to pay for an outrageous boondoggle guaranteed to raise our taxes for a building they know will never pay for itself.
• We object to the County’s position that it’s fine that The Commons Convention Center will need to be subsidized. The most recent Commons Master Plan states that in addition to going out for $13.25 million in bonds (which will cost us taxpayers over $1 million in yearly financing expenses), the residents will be expected to cover an ADDITIONAL $500,000 to $600,000 every year to subsidize operations. The Master Plan states, “…operational feasibility shows a net annual operating deficit for all forecasts of usage.”
• We object that the County keeps saying most residents of Lincoln County want the Fair and want it to stay at its present location because two Ballot Measures passed indicating this desire. This is a flagrant misrepresentation of those votes. The ballot measures passed in 2007 and 2015 were for an increase in transient room tax (taxes paid by tourists, not residents). It was NOT a vote to build an Exhibit Hall/Convention Center or to bury us in debt. In fact, Ballot Measure 21-165 states, “Without any impact to local property tax payers, we’ll be able to improve the infrastructure and structures at the Commons.” What happened to that promise?
• We object that the County has already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultant fees and they still don’t have building plans or a budget. They need to stop throwing good money after bad. It’s time to cut our losses and figure out a better use for the Fairgrounds property.
• We object that the County is providing misinformation and, when caught, trying another tactic. First, the County claimed there was a deed restriction and that the Fairgrounds would revert to original owners if the property were used in any other way. That turned out to be false. Then they claimed they had done an extensive search to move the Fair, but over the decades kept coming to the same conclusion: there is no other appropriate location for a County Fair. But it turns out after a few brief inquiries… there ARE other locations. Other cities are interested in discussing the possibility of relocating both the Fair and 4-H.
• We object that the County has intimated we want to get rid of the County Fair and 4-H. Those words are scare tactics. The Fair and 4-H should be moved to a location more appropriate for animals and agriculture. The transient room tax money and the State’s financial support goes with the Fair, no matter where it is located.
Lincoln County does not need a new Convention Center guaranteed to lose money and increase our taxes. Call The Commons whatever you want, but know that the people of Lincoln County do not need it. We don’t want it. We can’t afford it.
Mr. Geltner invited input from the public at future public meetings, but neglected to provide when or where. So here’s the information: The next Master Plan Committee meeting will be Thursday, June 14, at 6 p.m., OSU Extension Service, 1211 SE Bay Blvd. Please attend, and please speak up.
Member, Commons Master Plan Visioning Committee representing “the people” of Lincoln County