And So It Begins
For a small town it appears that the Pines are getting a great deal of attention and I am not at all sure that they want it. At least not in the form that they are getting it. Like Strawberry Plains/New Market who just seem to be plagued with issues like the Intermodal and now the Mineral Rights debacle, White Pine has had its fair share of the spotlight. Most know the issues that they are facing with their school renovation/addition program and, regardless of which elected body or administrative officials are to blame for the situation, the students, teachers, staff and community are the ones paying the price. And now they are looking at a new Commerce Park in their neighborhood.
Some will contend that it is a good thing, a step in the right direction for a Town and County that could certainly use a little financial boost. Others say nay and want things to stay just the way that they are. Both sides of the fence have valid points. The hard truth is that it is going to be difficult for the County Commission to keep on financing the needs of the County, much less the wants, without a financial infusion either in the form of tax revenue or a property tax increase. It is difficult , if not almost impossible, to attract retail and restaurants and other business that bring in sales tax and improve the livability of an area with our present demographics. It is the sad, sad truth that industry, even medium side industry, is necessary for the kind of growth that most of the community would rather see, sales tax growth.
No one really wants a commerce or business park in their back door. No one really wants an Intermodal in their back door or to have geologists digging holes in their back yard looking for minerals but it is the reality of the times that we live in and the place that we live. Let’s be clear. The folks opposed to the White Pine location for a Commerce Park have some valid points. The site is very close to Hamblen County and there is already a very nice, very empty business park sitting just four miles away from the proposed White Pine location. There is also the issue of end cost. No one seems to be ready to throw out a figure and that is just a little scary to me. Round numbers are great and I, for one, would love to hear some. After all, the truth is that we are going to have to hand out tax abatements like Halloween Candy to attract businesses and it would be nice to know just how many years we are going to be running in the red. Are we chasing a grizzly that is going to turn on us and eat us or is there a date, somewhere in the future, that we can expect at least a modest feast? I don’t think that anyone really knows yet.
What I do know is this. When a part of our community takes it on the chin to benefit the rest of our community we should be looking to ease the blow. Maybe now is the time to talk a little bit about the end result of the building program for White Pine School? I am not saying that the County Commission should just throw money into a bad, expensive plan. Not at all. What I am saying is that what we are looking at putting $3.5 million dollars into, which is just the bare basic hamburger with a steak price tag, may need to be adjusted to fit into a bigger picture- Especially if that picture includes an influx of school age children into the area thanks to a filled to the brim Commerce Park.
Maybe what we all need is a little more information and a little less rush to judgment. I know that there is confusion about the White Pine building program and now we have added a potential Commerce Park to the mix. We need to clear up the muddy waters on both issues before we start drawing lines in the sand and making decisions or lobbying for things that are not what is best for our community. Sometimes the best thing to do is to tap the breaks. Take care of the emergencies and then look at the big picture, not with a monocle, not through rose colored glasses, but from the perspective of those lucky folks with 20/20 vision.