Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Boondoggle in the Boondocks: Stop the Columbia County Events Center Madness Now

Nick Patel, hotel entrepreneur and Tourist Development Council member, was spot on in his recent remarks regarding the Columbia County Events Center. We simply cannot afford one.

With millions of dollars in education cuts adversely affecting Columbia County schools over the past several years; with a combined three year total of over $500,000 in public safety cuts in three of the past four years; with the privatizing of EMS because it was a cost-savings decision in part due to reduced tax revenue, why would anyone in their right mind even consider spending money that we do not have for an events center?

As has been stated time and time again, the only profitable events center in Florida is the one near Disney. Columbia County taxpayers cannot afford caviar on a tuna fish budget.

Before agreeing to a lifetime commitment to subsidize this events center folly, perhaps Columbia County can allocate some of the same taxpayer dollars to improving basic services in the County.

For several years, County officials have reminded us that we are experiencing a steady decline in tax revenues. With state and federal shortfalls can we really anticipate receiving grants and matching funds for this project, which is all but guaranteed to lose money?

The drunken sailor federal spending approach to the Country’s economic condition and further cost-shifting of unfunded mandates will continue. When the state gets stuck with the bill, passing some costs on to the County is inevitable.

It’s time for a reality check.

Reality check #1: remember Columbia County's Hall of Fame? How did that expenditure work out for Columbia County's residents?

Reality check #2: remember the $6,000,000 Bascom-Norris Bypass that is now going to cost about four times its original estimate?

Does anyone truly believe that the $28,000,000 estimate for building the events center will even be close to the actual final cost?

Ask yourself who will benefit from building such a project? Then, take a good, long look in the mirror. Most likely, the person you’re looking at won’t be one of them.

Come to a County Commission meeting, email or call your County Commissioner and let him/her know what you think.

Stop the event center madness now.

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