The Dirty Alpha Coal Building Deal
by Lewis Loflin
"It's a little-known fact that roughly 20 percent of the children in Southwest Virginia live below the poverty line and go hungry every night." Kevin Crutchfield, President Alpha Natural Resources, January 15, 2009
What does the local press say about how business is done in Washington County, Virginia?
The decisions, however, were made largely behind closed doors, with the single public meeting on the purchase held in a conference room and without advertisement. The perception that the decision was made without any public input seems to have stirred more anger than the purchase itself.
I was at that meeting and the public was barred from saying anything. The backroom deal over the former Alpha Coal Company building in Abingdon is in the news again. Conservative activist Hammond Hunt of Abingdon presented a petition with over 3000 signatures to the Board of Supervisors, who remained silent and took no action.
This backroom deal cost one entrenched supervisor his seat. This issue was key in the platform of Supervisor Republican Bill Gibson. Washington County Republican Chairman Rich Macbeth says, "I've been talking to people, and they just don't like this. We need to have a better and more open government here." Mr. Macbeth is currently running for a seat on the Abingdon Town Council.
My supervisor Odell Owens claims most people he has talked to support $16 million bailout for Alpha Coal. Why is it a bailout? Alpha moved its offices about seven miles down the road to Bristol, Virginia and knew they couldn't unload the building in a bad market. Not only did they make a tidy profit on their old building (which had gotten a number of taxpayer kickbacks in itself), but millions more in free land and incentives in Bristol. Total cost to state/local taxpayers with interest, perhaps $30 million. How many new jobs did this create? None that anyone can verify.
Not only have the Washington County BOS approved the massive borrowing for this deal, but is planning to borrow even more than that as part corporate welfare package for the local Food City grocery chain to move their offices within the community and for a medical school for a private college. This will entail more debt of about $9 million cost or about $20 million with interest.
I would invite everyone to support The Patriots of Washington County. Their website is at www.patriotswashcova.org.
A Citizen's Remarks
Given Under the 3-Minute Rule
Board of Supervisors Meeting March 27, 2012
Washington County, VA
Good evening . . . I'm Hammond Hunt . . . Wilson District, Washington County.
On behalf of citizens, I'm delivering to you 3,021 signatures petitioning you to dispose of the new government building . . . with more coming in the weeks and months ahead . . . and many others having said they would sign but fear reprisal (being government dependent on careers and commercial relationships).
How do you defend a $16 million dollar commitment, not only without the consent of the governed, but intentionally excluding it?
Does not honoring your oath of office mandate a special election?
How can the IDA exceed its established regulatory purpose of financing infrastructure?
Was the mysterious assessment increase of millions . . . done just days prior to the closing . . . required to secure the financing?
Why conceal the lease buy-out if it was the bargain you claim?
Are you aware that in the last 3 years, you have . . . by triple-digit percentages . . . defeated the Obama Administration's record for increasing debt?
How do you justify cutting over 75% of the fire and rescue equipment budget, where public safety is your highest duty? . . . But rationalize increasing government overhead $550,000 dollars every year until our teenagers are middle-aged?
Why are you denying citizens the right to participate in the energy revolution now exploding across America?
Do you realize there has been zero job growth in our county in the last 5 years?
Are you aware that our county median household income growth has decreased 50% relative to the State of Virginia in the last 10 years?
Why increase taxes at all? . . . given a fresh $10 million dollars in windfall reserves . . . given this year's projected revenue increases . . . given a liquid balance sheet . . . and given that 6 of you were put here by citizens responding to your political platform of fiscal conservatism, fully expecting government cuts . . . no less than their household cuts . . .required by this anemic economy.
Who's making the above decisions? . . . Who's running our county?
Citizens say let's continue with the reorganization of our county administration that started with the brilliant success of the Deputy Administrator . . . and aggressively pursue job growth with our virtually second-to-none, rural American comparative advantages.
Seize this milestone opportunity to rebuild a bond of electoral trust and . . . 1) constitutionally correct your published organization chart, placing 'We the People' at the top, not subordinated to government . . . 2) regularly engage citizens interactively, which, by policy, you have eliminated . . . 3) erase privilege which governments cannot grant . . . 4) remove the intimidating, undefined threat to criminal prosecution and, finally, cancel your move . . . turn the building into income producing property now.
Wilson District, Washington County VA
Facts About the Alpha Building Purchase You Should Know
* Expenses will increase from $1.00 per year rent on the current office building to a cost of $550,000 per year.
* The county incurred added debt of $16 million (about $8 million purchase price plus another $8 million in interest).
* The county increased long-term financial obligations by approximately 30%, including interest, in one single transaction.
* The Alpha building assessment nearly doubled unexplainably just months before the county purchase, from approximately $4.4 million to $7.9 million.
* Additionally, the county has now committed nearly $1 million more for building renovations, scheduled for completion mid-summer 2012.
* The purchase was discussed and decided upon by the Board in closed-door sessions, only giving citizens the minimum comment period required by law.
This reckless spending by our Board of Supervisors can only lead to higher taxes for citizens of Washington County; and their complete lack of transparency erodes our trust in them to honor their oath of office.
Please support our efforts to remove this burden from us and future generations by signing our petition to dispose of the new county government building.
Petition may be viewed and electronically signed on www.patriotswashcova.org. All signatures, electronic and in hand, will be compiled and presented to the Board of Supervisors concurrently.
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