COLUMN: Nipping a nasty rumor in the bud

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By Ben Carlson

Rumors are ugly things, aren’t they?

Well, I’ve heard what I hope is just a rumor over the past week or so that is so ugly it appears to have fallen out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.

As hard as it is to believe, I’ve heard from several sources that overtures have been made to turn the now defunct auto dealership across from Kroger into — wait for it! — a public building.

One version of the rumor includes turning it into a school bus garage. Another includes moving the sheriff’s and ambulance departments there, perhaps along with the fiscal court annex and/or county clerk.

Let us please bow our heads at this point and pray none of the above is true.

While there can be no doubt that all of the above public agencies are cramped and certainly need more space, taking yet another commercial property off the tax rolls simply cannot be the answer.

Just last year the Anderson County Board of Health permanently removed from the tax rolls 2 acres adjoining Walmart in order to build a new $2 million health department building.

As I’ve written before, that boneheaded move grabbed the future location of a Kohl’s or Target or whatever big box store may have someday moved into that location, bringing with it dozens of jobs and a much-needed boost to the property and inventory tax bases.

Instead, it will now only support employees paid with our taxes and generate zero income for our schools, city and county government, fire department, library or Extension office, and do so in perpetuity.

And to rub a little salt in that wound, the health board in all of its wisdom is now paying $3,000 a month in rent for what used to be its building on Main Street after swapping it for the land near Walmart. Sure makes you proud to pay that portion of your property taxes, eh?

If nothing else, it is expected that those who spend our tax dollars should have sense enough to learn from others’ mistakes. Along with the health board’s poorly thought out decision, we’ve seen acre after precious acre of what should be commercial land gobbled up by local decision makers, including putting the new school board complex and Ward Elementary on the Bypass.

Enough already. With candidates in countywide racing frantically scouring every neighborhood and county road for votes — and city council and mayoral candidates soon to be doing the same — it’s time to let them know when they get to your door that you’re tired of this kind of thinking and tell them to knock it off.

Make sure they actually understand that every time they make a decision to remove commercial real estate from the tax rolls and plunk down a public facility, they are also removing that property from the tax rolls.

Make sure they realize that to make up for that loss, their only alternative is to stick their hands a little deeper into the pockets of homeowners when they set their tax rates.

And make sure they don’t leave until you’ve told them that if this continues, you’ll see to it that the next public paycheck they collect will come from the unemployment department.

Speaking of countywide races, please set aside a couple of hours Thursday night to join The Anderson News and Anderson County Chamber of Commerce for a political forum featuring Democratic judge-executive and sheriff candidates.

It will begin with the sheriff candidates at 6 p.m. at the middle school auditorium, followed by judge-executive candidates at 7:15.

Each candidate will answer five pre-selected questions and be allowed an opening and closing statement.

This is a perfect opportunity to see these fellows think on their feet (they won’t know the questions until they’re asked) and get to hear their takes on a variety of local issues.

Admission is free, of course, and we hope you’ll join us. Call me at 839-6906 or e-mail me at the address below if you have any questions.

E-mail Ben Carlson at bcarlson@theandersonnews.com.