Southwest Virginia Population decline 2010-2018.

Bristol Virginia Faces Bankruptcy?

by Lewis Loflin

Things just never change in Bristol. Corruption, back room deals in the name of economic development, and incompetence plague the City.

SCS Engineers took a look at the Bristol Virginia landfill and concluded, "has never seen a government run landfill under more dire financial circumstances than Bristol's."

Bristol Virginia was declared "the most financially distressed locality in Virginia" in 2018. Auditors blasted Bristol debt. To quote, "I have not seen another circumstance of a city, county, or municipality that has the degree of debt that you have ... in my experience."

The Falls retail development cost over $50 million the last time I checked and continues to be bailed out. Much of it sits empty. Throw in other nonsense over the years like $180,000 incentive package for seafood restaurant or $200,000 incentive package for Mellow Mushroom, etc. You get the idea. But it gets worse.

Now we come the landfill that was the center of this audit. City Manager Randy Eads plays down The Falls fiasco as minor compared to the landfill fiasco. To quote,

"When people think about the City of Bristol, they think the Falls is probably the biggest mistake the city has ever gotten itself into. The landfill decision will cost the city more money than The Falls will ever cost, and right now, it has already cost more than The Falls will ever cost. At this point, the landfill has cost the city $85 million."

How the hell did this happen? Lack of public access and oversight of city government. The abusive use of executive session that keeps the public and press out of meetings concerning how money is handled and spent.

I warned about The Falls but missed the landfill. The City has $50 million in general obligation bond debt over The Falls plus another $30 million in revenue bonds purchased by speculators. Let's throw in $35 million in general obligation bonds for the landfill costing $2.2 million just in debt service.

Bristol Virginia is a poor community of about 17,500 with last count 13 public housing areas. That is $6,000 debt per resident just on The Falls and the landfill. They blame this on low landfill fees on residents and low tipping fees for commercial dumpers.

But it gets worse. The current landfill has a life of 27 years but the City has accrued no funds for state-mandated post-closure costs. Those are estimated at $19 million. That includes $3.1 million due in 2019-20 for a landfill closed in 2002.

They are recommending trash collection fee raises of $7-$21 or more. Just what one of the poorest cities in the state needs.

It isn't just Bristol. Unless Virginia changes laws to allow public and press access to these closed door meetings it will be more of the same.

Now let's get back to climate change and Russia.

Ref. BHC 1-9-2019. Posted 1/28/2019.

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