Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Letter to the Editor

Boondoggle in the Boondocks: County Resident Gives Proposed Events Center the thumbs down

After attending last Thursday night's County Commission meeting and the Events Center presentation at the Fairgrounds, I am convinced that the County Commission is going to ram it through, Chicago style, no matter what. Some people are set to make a fortune; some are setting themselves up for a cushy County job and the rest of their cronies are paving the way to place the cost for their pet project on the backs of Columbia County taxpayers. As the saying goes: “Those that govern never run out of things they can’t accomplish with someone else’s money!”

On Thursday, the five member lame duck County Commission voted 4 to 1 after a half hour of hot air from Mr. Dupree, Mr. Bailey and Mr. Williams, and a short dissent from Mr. DePratter, to proceed to phase #2 of the $28 million project that will probably cost double that before it’s completed. 

Those of us in the audience, who repeatedly raised our hands to speak, were totally ignored by Chairwoman Frisina, as her colleagues prattled on, purposely killing time until the end of the meeting at 8:30, when she closed the discussion and called for a vote. 

All I wanted to say was: “You’re forgetting that you work for us. You have no right to undertake a project of this size without first determining if such a thing is actually wanted by your constituents.”

Commissioner Williams pontificated loud and long about how this has been a “dream” of some Columbia County residents since 1976 and he suggested that it would be a smart move to not only select the site, but to purchase it without delay. 

I’ve lived here for 11 years. I ran a local business for 2 years. Not once have I ever heard anyone saying how much they wished we had an Events Center in the County. 

Phase #2 includes site selection, which means that some lucky land owner stands to make at least quadruple what the land is really worth.

The site they speak of is up to 200 acres, which is more than double the size of the area now being used. Two of the proposed sites are in Ellisville. The purchase price for the site is $4 million or $20,000 per acre. During the presentation, several inquiries as to the owners of these brought no response. 

$20,000 per acre is an outrageous amount to pay for land that has decreased in value for the last 5 years. Most large parcels are selling for $5,000 per acre or less all over our county. I can’t imagine having to drive 15 miles to Ellisville to go to the fair, the home show or the rodeo if this comes to pass.

All the events presently held in the County are on the 87.5 acres known as the Fairgrounds, which is central to most of the population of the county. The proposal is to sell off this acreage to help fund the new project. Has anyone noticed that nothing is selling in the county right now?

Just take a look every day at the foreclosure notices in the local paper. People are broke; the tax base is shrinking and now is no time to saddle the people that are left in the county with a mega-million dollar project that will further burden the local economy, especially when it’s a “good-ole-boy” pipe dream they’re trying to force their neighbors to pay for.

All I can do is to try to alert all of the county residents who feel, as I do, that this project is one we can’t afford, don’t need and don’t want. 

Please make it a point to call your County Commissioner and voice your disdain with this whole idea. Demand that they drop it before more of our money is wasted.

Edward S. Harris

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