Monday, March 19, 2007


Are You Listening?

by Sandy Whitehead
Jackson Township

Maybe my question, posed to the council at the conclusion of the March 14 meeting, was premature. As Mark Mitter pointed out, I asked at the January 23 meeting that the council focus their efforts to the TIF districts where smart growth should occur. The Economic Development Timeline provided by Vieste and dated February 28 does in fact suggest looking at the TIF districts. So they heard us.

Vieste's timeline also suggests County wide analysis. Mark Mitter wants to see where infrastructure should be focused. Several Council members have voiced the desire to consider every area of the County, saying that we cannot limit ourselves. What do you think they'll come up with? I do agree with Bill Ullrich in one respect: if a large enough commercial or industrial entity wants to locate in say, Jackson Township, they will build the utilities and infrastructure needed to supply their site. However, it is not good fiscal practice for a local government to attempt this on their own and expect a good return. Check that one off your analysis list, Michael Comparato.

Comparato said they discovered that the TIFs weren't analyzed enough when created, therefore the need for additonal analysis. Vieste told the County in their Phase I report that they shouldn't expend any more money on studying the TIF districts until they know what kind of business wants to locate there. To date, that is the only thing they've said that I agree with. But which is it, Comparato? I don't like wafflers, especially when you're waffling at the expense of tax payers. I hope that someone who helped create the TIFs comments on this.

Back to why I was so upset at the end of the meeting. I have placed nothing but facts before these Council members. The comments that I prepared for the March 14 meeting were echoed by Dennis Kraus, Sr., and I can assure you that we did not work together or speak to each other about what we prepared. I personally found it amazing that Dennis and I were the only ones who came to these conclusions. Not a single Council person wanted to even consider our evidence. They were ready to move on and place a vote to fund Vieste's project.

Wouldn't anyone feel that the members of this Council had their minds made up before they came in the door? I guess next time instead of waiting for a public forum I will lobby each Council member individually. That's allowed, right?

Kraus, Sr. had a great idea at the March 14 Council Meeting notes. He suggested that instead of giving a large sum of money to a consulting company, why not create a County position for this undertaking? Paying a qualified candidate $60,000 a year would be a lot more economical than $778,000.

I realize that the Dearborn County Economic Development Initiative is not part of County Government, but the County does fund them (most recently, $25,000). Now the County wants to fund Vieste. How is that not a duplication of efforts? Get rid of someone.

Maybe now that the Council has a week or so to work out the "cloudiness" regarding Branaman's involvement in the Lawrence County water scandal they will also consider what has been placed before them. I know that some are listening, and I apologize for making a premature statement (before the vote is actually cast). All I want is for the Council to make a sound business decision.

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