It’s time for the county to act

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I’m worried that this county is on a fast track to bankruptcy.

While researching for some of the recent stories involving the county commission and the county’s current financial status, there was one consistent fact that has surfaced — the county doesn’t bring in enough revenue to pay its bills.

Chairman Sasser has a line he uses each time he and I talk: “We’ve got to do something about this economic crisis, or we’re going to be faced with some tough decisions.”

I disagree, Mr. Chairman.

I don’t think, “We’re going to be faced with some tough decisions,” as if that might happen sometime in the future. I think that time is here and now, and those decisions need to be made now before the bigger picture includes layoffs and loss of services.

In December, commissioners talked about three areas they wanted to focus on to reduce expenditures and increase revenue — the arena, Pt. A Park and the USDA building. In that meeting, District 1 Commissioner David Ellis said two of those three areas make up 50 percent of the county’s debt.

Six months into the fiscal year, we can put a check by one of those items, after Monday’s commission meeting where commissioners agreed to list the USDA building and the property behind the Kiwanis Center referred to as the “ball park property” for sale. The other two — one of which is the biggest talking point — are hanging out there in the wind.

Together, the USDA building and ball park property were appraised at more than $1.2 million, but that’s money that will only do the county good when that property is sold.

Aside from my opinion that the county is sinking fast, what alarms me the most is that there have been no public discussions on concrete methods our commissioners plan to implement to fix the situation.

We’ve had hit or miss talks on the unit system, properties we can sell, cuts we can make here or there — but that’s all it’s been, talk.

I know the arena is a touchy subject with people around here, but I think this county’s financial future hinges on how the county can better utilize money it takes to operate it.

There are some for the arena, and some against it. If you took all those people and put them on either side of the gate on one of those stalls — the “for it” group on one side and the “against it” group on the other — you would find me sitting on top of the gate.

I think the arena is a great asset, but, with that said, it is a huge financial drain the county can no longer afford.

I’ll break it down in simple “Nelson-omics.” I like HBO. It’s a great asset in my house. I love “True Blood”, but that extra $20 bucks on my Dish bill is a drain to my budget — ergo, no Sookie Stackhouse, but I can pay my light bill.

I think for this county to succeed, two things must be realized: from this point forward, commissioners need to make assertive decisions, and two, we need to realize there is a bigger picture at stake than our own feelings — be it as a commissioner, an arena supporter, or a reporter. It’s about the economic stability of our county.