Letter to the Editor: Oct. 11, 2014

Published 5:14 pm Saturday, October 11, 2014

To the Editor,


Last month, the county board submitted paperwork to acquire the Voice of America (VOA) property from the National Park Service. The VOA is 2800-acre parcel of land whose covenants limit its potential owners exclusively to government or non-profit organizations. These covenants encumber the property with usage and transfer restrictions that diminish any expectation of resale or liquidation value. Once we take it, we’re stuck with it. The county commissioners are enticed by the fact that the property will come with an initial purchase price of zero, and they have developed an impromptu business plan to use the property as a recreational and commercial site. However, there are significant initial clean up and development expenses that will continue for years before any revenue can be expected, then whatever revenue is generated must be retained within the VOA project itself. In effect, the VOA is a black hole into which taxpayers will pour money far into the future, and if things go poorly, it is unlikely that we will ever be able to sell it off; yet, the hoped for revenue is never allowed to benefit the county’s general fund.

Before putting too much faith in the feasibility of the commissioners’ business plan for the VOA, taxpayers should examine their earlier record of investing on our behalf.

First, under the Economic Development Commission, they hired a shallow, but complete, incompetent to oversee an inept and consistently wasteful program of profligate spending under which more than $12,000,000 was thoughtlessly slopped into two regrettable industrial parks, a handful of senseless and unproductive matching grants, the construction of an industrial building that remained unoccupied until it was finally liquidated at 40 cents on the dollar, and an idiotic ethanol fiasco. Meanwhile, straining to throw good money after bad, our commissioners spent $15,000,000 remodeling the community hospital and immediately sold the renovated facility off at a loss. Then there’s the rent-a-jail, whose bloated financing and operating costs will add over $2,000,000 per year to the county’s budget.

These experiences have done nothing to dampen our commissioners’ faith in their own talent as investors. They can always be depended upon to inflate a project’s expectations while remaining ignorant of the project’s limitations. With the VOA they are assuming that they, and all subsequent generations of wannabe investor-politicians, will be able to implement some whimsical timber and solar revenue model that will be profitable enough to finance the operating losses of a recreational area. What practical experience do they have with the problems and liabilities of these three distinct businesses? Why has no private landowner ever come up with an idea this imaginative?

The county commissioners are tasked with providing necessary public services to the community. These men are completely unqualified to manage what amounts to a dysfunctional real estate investment trust on behalf of the taxpayers. The money taxes take from us is put to far better use when left in our own pockets. Whether we choose to spend or invest, the decision should be our own.




Warren Smith

Beaufort County