Long Term Issue

It seems like all the news in Jefferson County is surrounding the proposed Megasite and it is possibly the most long term impacting issue that Jefferson County has faced since the County moved to one centralized high school. This week the County Budget Committee will be faced with a request for $600,000-the initial portion of a total of $3 million that will be requested for the certification phase of the Megasite project. I have heard and read many things about this project in the last few weeks…some of them true and some of them false (or at least skewed). Some in the County, including several Commissioners, are saying that $3 million is a small portion of the total cost of the project and, as such, a reasonable investment in the certification phase to see if the proposed property is even eligible for a Megasite. Frankly, I think that this project has been chasing its tail since it was announced. I am all for economic growth and we need jobs in Jefferson County desperately. But, I am still looking for real information.

So far, this has been tantamount to a cheerleading exercise for the Megasite and that is great, so long as it doesn’t come with a multi million dollar price tag. If there were real projections of the cost to the County and they looked reasonable then a 1% investment in the certification process is not unreasonable. $3 million taxpayer dollars is a lot of money to lay out on a project when there are no firm numbers being released. Or at least not publicly. But, there are number out there and they will make the average tax payer swallow hard. What will taxpayers get for their $306,623,615? In a packet presented by EDOC on November 15, 2012, the investment summary states that we will get $250,000 in Engineering Service, over $355,000 in legal services, $100,000 in public relations costs, over $1.2 million in Environment testing (phase one evaluation) and $150,000 in site certification costs.  In addition, we will receive $25,782,000 in core property (tax appraised at $18,653,000) and $3,380,000 (tax appraised at$2,969,000) for property involved in the supplier park, property for the extended rail and road ROW for the amount of $ 7,000,000 (140 acres at $50,000 per) and over ½ a million dollars in residential acquisition relocation costs. Jefferson County Taxpayers will get access improvement costs in the amount of a little more than $49,000,000 and rail improvement costs in the amount of $21,565,000. Add in around more than $20 million in electrical site and Right of Way, gas line improvements, water and wastewater system improvements, $5 million in Fire Department and Emergency services and $79,000,000 for recruitment and training services, including permanent training centers and, of course, $2 million in marketing. The cost per job (2,000 jobs) is $153,312…naturally, these are only projections of the front end costs.

But what of the ongoing costs of supporting the proposed site and the 2,000 employees that come with it. What is the projected influx of students to our schools? What is the ongoing cost to provide fire, police and other emergency services? We will most defiantly be offering a very attractive incentive package to any potential manufactures and that will most likely include the megasite itself, as well as sales and property tax abatements. How long will those incentives last? Can Jefferson County taxpayers support this site until the incentives are no longer in effect? What amount of property tax increase are we looking at to fund this site? Where is the “wash” point, when we are no longer paying but not receiving?  We should have learned from the growth boom of the last decade that property taxes do not fully offset infrastructure costs. So, I say to the County Commission. If you are unsure of the answers to any of the above questions-if you are unwilling to commit several million more dollars to funds the overflow in our schools and fire and emergency services-is $3 million dollars an appropriate investment for this County. I see this as an all in or all out proposition. It is fiscally irresponsible to be half way invested…to test the waters. And the last question that Commissioners must ask themselves before they commit millions of taxpayer dollars on this Mega Project is simple-are you willing to invoke eminent domain in Jefferson County? It really is an all or all out proposition, like it or not.

Source: K. Depew, News Director