So the truth is finally coming to light: ABI was a three month old company that almost no one else would lend money to who dazzled the city into spending $6.8 million to build a custom building and hangar. The front man had legal trouble in the recent past and had to sign a usurious note just to borrow money for the equipment.
I wonder who missed all of this? The banks didn’t seem to miss any of this since none of them would lend to ABI except for one who made the city co-sign. Several of our top city staff were involved with the deal. They are the eyes and ears for the city commission and should have seen the warning signs. The EDC was in on this too. This is a prime example of people without any skin in the game looking to make a name for themselves with our money. Our money! The payments are $600,000 per year, which we have been paying since almost day one. $600,000 per year is about 4 mills. We could do a lot with that money, 6 cops, 6 fireman, 4 mill decrease in taxes. This will go on for another 18 or so years, a generation. The building will be sold at some point but for a loss I am sure. From what I understand the building was fairly custom to ABI’s intended use and will take some extensive modification to use for someone else.
If memory serves several people are gone from that time frame: the EDC director, the city manager, city CFO, assistant city manager. I wonder if any of them were fired (with exception of the CFO) because of the loss? I wonder if anyone still around who was involved will face any consequences over this loss. I can tell you if some group of employees looses $6.8 million of my money I would be hopping mad. I wonder if there is any way to claw back the losses from those responsible, including city staff? Of course there isn’t.
The city commission doesn’t get a free pass. They placed a lot of trust in the city staff. Now that trust is gone. They can only make decisions based on what they are told but maybe a healthier dose of skepticism is in order. The Occidental deal keeps floating around city hall, I wonder if anyone thinks about ABI and the Logistics park when Occidental wants us to front $20 million or more in infrastructure for a ‘maybe’ payback? For a community our size we sure do throw around a lot of money and it doesn’t seem to work as often as we like.
We also have a school district trying to spend almost $85,000,000 to upgrade our schools. This number makes the city look like rookies! They want $24,420,000 to build a new elementary school south of Highway 50 when we have empty classrooms at the elementary level now. They want the rest of the money for various projects but don’t seem to realize without the money to pay for the quality inside the classroom then it is all just a waste. I am not saying the teachers we have now aren’t any good, but if you want to give raises, etc, to recruit and retain top talent you can’t expect an already tapped out community to give more.
Last Friday the teachers had an in-service day and were required to attend a meeting on how they can do their part on the bond. They were pushed by the union to get behind it. This seems awfully socialistic to me. Teachers, if you want this insanity to stop you need to be vocal. Don’t fear for your job. If enough of you can band together you can make administration and the board listen to reason. It seems ok for the administration to use fear tactics to get you to drink their Kool-Aid then maybe it is time for them to be a little afraid of a vocal majority of teachers disagreeing with how the district is being ran. How many of you would rather have more materials in the classroom for instruction instead of a shiny new building.
Something else that stinks a little to me is the architects being involved from day one. They are guaranteed to get the contract if the bond passes. Other states, Nevada for example, have laws against any company involved in the bond development getting any work from the bond. This seems only logical but here in good ole Kansas we have a firm that starts off with "free" services helping get the bond together and now we are stuck with them. No other companies are allowed to compete with potentially cost saving ideas.
If you want to keep your taxes affordable then get involved! Keep an eye on your local taxing authorities and question everything they do!
— Jason Mitchell is a member of the leadership team of the Harvey County Republican Party. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.