The Lauderdale County Agricultural Authority is supposed to release its master plan for the $45 million agricultural event center by the end of this month.
That’s the latest promise from the authority spearheading the project.
During its most recent meeting on Sept. 30, state Rep. Tim Melson said the master plan would be released in “two to three weeks,” and a groundbreaking and “welcome to the neighborhood type of function” would be held “sometime in October.”
Two weeks (on Oct. 14) have passed with no additional information, so the authority has until Monday to meet its own self-imposed deadline. Past history would suggest the public shouldn’t put too much faith in Melson’s promise.
After all, he’s the individual who has twice given deadlines about the availability of an economic impact study the authority has paid to be completed. The study was to include information on how comparable projects have fared.
Back in September 2018, Melson hinted the study being done by CLS International Principal Bill Krueger would be completed in about a month. It didn’t get finished in a month, or in the next six months.
On March 22 of this year, the authority held a meeting to pat itself on the back for finalizing the purchase of an additional 85 acres of land that were adjacent to the 170 acres originally purchased. At that time, Melson said the purchase of the additional acreage cleared the way for the completion of the economic impact study.
That was seven months ago, and the public has still not received any word on the study, which means it has either not been completed, or it was completed and the authority has refused to share the details with the public.
Neither of those options is acceptable, especially since it’s now been more than a year since Melson first mentioned the study was being conducted.
We would also like to remind taxpayers that on Aug. 10, 2018, it was Melson who made another promise that seems questionable at this point:
“We will not build anything until we get the feasibility study or economic impact study back,” he said during an ag authority meeting. “The project has to be a positive economic impact, or we will not build it.”
And yet earlier this year earth-moving equipment began clearing the acreage for construction, and last month the board went to the bond market to secure $37.2 million to fund the project. After the master plan is completed, blueprints for construction will be ready within six months, and the goal for completion of the project is two years, Melson said.
“That’s ambitious, but it’s very doable,” he said on Sept. 30.
Notice, if you will, none those plans are predicated upon any information that indicates the economic impact of the ag center will be positive.
Also, county residents will bear the additional responsibility of paying up to $250,000 annually should gas tax revenues earmarked for the project fall short. Be sure to thank your county commissioner for that possible obligation.
More than two years after this project was conceptualized, the general public knows little more than it will be stuck paying for the ag center for 40 years. And that’s just a shame.
Hopefully, the master plan Melson has promised will shed a little more light on this grandiose scheme, but it still won’t answer the biggest question of all — is it economically feasible?