Sewer Fees and More Socialism for the Rich
by Lewis Loflin
If there is anything that proves just how corrupt the Republican Party has become, come to Washington County, Virginia. Republicans rail about small government, cutting taxes, and ending welfare. Not when it comes to their rich friends. Corporate welfare is OK, hungry children be damned.
"I'll try to finish my first phase [of a housing complex] and give it back to the bank and go over to Tennessee," threatened builder Bill Roberts. He feels it isn't right that he pays for sewer tap fees and the other County residents should pay it. Why? Because, "drastically increasing the tap fee cost in the middle of a project - and in the middle of a recession - is a major problem for him, particularly because he already installed the water and sewer infrastructure on his own dime." Well that's real nice, but that is his project and he knew what the cost would be. Sorry Bill it's called private enterprise and the risk is yours, not the public. Go to Tennessee Mr. Roberts.
Commissioner Joe Chase stuck up for the public interest: "It all boils down to somebody has to pay for it." The new fee structure charges a $4000 water tap fee and a $2,900 fee for each 5000 gallons of projected use according to the press. General Manager Robbie Cornett believes that "growth should pay for growth" and that the public shouldn't be forced to subsidize new customers, especially private business, with higher utility bills. This is part of a dirty backdoor tax system they use to subsidize often wealthy large businesses and developers at public expense. All of this business is often conducted in closed session (back rooms as we call it here) where no records are kept and the press and public are barred from attending.
To his credit Supervisor Tom Taylor was reported to be the only supervisor that stood up for the general public. He noted the real economic condition of much of this community and says, "I would say at least half of the people who get water from the service authority would qualify as low to moderate income and for those people to subsidize developers just doesn't seem right to me." Mr. Taylor is indeed correct, but the rest of the Board of Supervisors are having no part of that argument as they attempt to force their corporate welfare agenda on the County Service Authority.
At a joint meeting of the Service Authority and the BOS on February 16th brought the issue into the open as supervisors aired their view. Supervisor Joe Straten says, "The county stands to lose some good businesses if some of these companies that want to come in here, some of the industries that use a lot of water, have to put forth a million-dollar tap fee. We all know there was a case that happened some years back. The company went on up the road to Wytheville and provided lots and lots of revenue." I'd like to see proof of that. If that is true why does the County keep borrowing millions of dollars to cover the cost of all that great revenue we keep getting?
What company Mr. Straten? According to his website and the press he is another wealthy move-in retiree from Ohio and I don't believe he has ever worked a job in this area. He is a Republican. He is joined by fellow Republican Odell Owens, vice-chairman of the Board of Supervisors. He claims "most people wouldn't mind an extra dollar or two on their monthly bill if it means bringing an industry to the county that will provide jobs and tax revenue, helping to keep property taxes low." Did Mr. Owens ask his constituents about that? No he didn't and I'm one of them.
The argument is totally asinine. They raise everyone's utility rates to hand out millions in subsidies so they don't raise property taxes? This is in fact wrong. Nearly every business that moves here (what few we get) cost so much in cash gifts, free infrastructure, etc. the community in general goes in the red. This ends up raising property taxes anyway in addition to the higher utility rates. They are in the process now of borrowing another $8 million to cover industrial development and the industry won't pay for a dime of it.
This is corrupt corporatist government at its worse. In a dirt poor region with a large population of low or fixed income property owners, it's wrong to bleed them white to subsidize employers whose often $8 an hour temp job can cost as much as $200,000 per job to the taxpayers. It's insane and immoral. It's socialism for the rich and the Republican Party, the party of "the private sector", is all for it. Posted February 26, 2010.
To quote Lenowisco Broadband Study Warned against Call Centers (PDF file):
"The region has been replacing traditional (better paying) manufacturing jobs with (low paying subsidized) call center jobs, which provide limited advancement and work opportunities. Call centers represent the factory floor of the Knowledge Economy; they are an important part of a diversified economic development strategy, but the region must be careful not to rely too heavily on them, as the work is easily moved to other regions and/or other countries."No US Job Creation 1999-2009
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