NO! To Q of L Bonds, Part Two

NO! To Q of L Bonds, Part Two Peter Burrows

Grant County voters will soon be voting via a special mail-in election on whether to authorize $10 million in new bonds, the proceeds to be used, supposedly, for five “quality of life” projects.  For legal reasons, what will formally be voted on is an “Imposition of a County Capital Outlay Gross Receipts Tax of 0.25%.”

The ballots will be mailed by the end of July and must be postmarked by August 19 to be counted.  My understanding is that the mailings will not include any details of the spending on the five projects publicly proposed by Grant County Chairman Brett Kasten, County Manager Jon Saari and WNMU President, Joe Sheppard.

Let’s take a look at these five projects that may or may not be funded by the blank check the County Commissioners want us to sign.  The one that has the most merit is to remodel the interior of the county owned Conference Center, the old WalMart building where Ace hardware is.

As you’ve probably noticed, the exterior of the Conference Center has just been extensively renovated.  It looks pretty good, but as Joe Sheppard said, doing just the exterior is like “putting lipstick on a pig.”  Sheppard would like to tie-in the Conference Center with university events, but the interior has to be redone in order to accommodate large gatherings and formal presentations.

I have no idea if it makes economic sense to do this, but at least it should generate some revenues. I would point out to Dr. Sheppard that the “lipstick” was given to us by the Economic Development Administration who, due to sequestration, couldn’t follow through with the $2 million budgeted to do the interior.  Now we are being asked to finish the job with our own, taxpayer purchased  “lipstick.”

What’s the rush?  Has the Economic Development Administration removed all possibility of ever completing the funding?

Also, has the County ever tried to sell the Center to a professional real estate management company, somebody with expertise who would put their own money in the game?  I would ask the bankers for advice on this, especially Wells Fargo. I’d also see if there are any regional REITs that might be interested, e.g. put in a call to Trans Continental Realty in Dallas. Can’t hurt.

(As an aside, if this had been privately funded, the inside would have been done FIRST.)

Another proposal, probably the most trivial, is to spend money improving the golf course, specifically to put in paved cart paths.  This isn’t what I’d call lipstick on a pig, more like lipstick on a platypus.  The course is just fine the way it is. It’s a good course, not a great course. If people must have a great golf course or a private country club, Silver City is not for them.

Besides, the golf course was a big beneficiary of the Silver City $5 million quality of life funding approved two years ago in which $450,000 was earmarked for a new clubhouse, yet to be built.  The first step was to clean up the parking area around the old clubhouse by removing all the little Quonset huts that are garages for privately owned golf carts.

These were all moved across Fairway Drive to the parking lot by the baseball fields and reinstalled on new cement pads.  This was absolutely the best thing that could be done to make the golf course more attractive. It also points out that any improvement to the course, especially cart paths, will primarily benefit the owners of these golf-cart Quonset huts.

The rent for these, and there are 54 of them, is $100 per year. In addition, to operate a cart on the course costs $556 per year. This totals $656 before any green fees are paid.  Since these folks own their carts, they incur the additional expenses of depreciation, maintenance and fuel.  Any course improvements, especially cart paths, will be much appreciated by this tiny, well-to-do minority.

Don’t be surprised if these people support the bond. I don’t blame them. If I had the money, I’d buy a storage unit and cart, and tool around the course in style.  If I really wanted voters to approve this tax increase though, I’d drop funding for anything associated with the golf course. Enough is enough.

Next week Part Three, More dumb ideas

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