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If you’re among the 1,100 Anderson County residents currently unemployed (or among the God knows how many whose unemployment benefits have expired and are no longer counted by the state), reading the rest of this editorial will make you angry.
Heck, it made us angry even writing it, and we have jobs.
The Anderson News received a news release Monday afternoon from Congressman Ben Chandler’s office, announcing that he and representatives from the Central Kentucky Regional Public Policy Group would reveal a jobs creation program Tuesday morning.
Well that’s good news, we thought.
We read further, though, and were distressed — and not a little angry — that elected officials and community and business leaders from Franklin, Woodford and a host of other surrounding counties would be on hand, but Anderson was nowhere to be seen.
We shot an e-mail to Chandler’s spokesperson, who said the list of those attending were provided by Commerce Lexington (whatever that is), but if we knew someone from Anderson County who planned to attend, the congressman’s office would appreciate it.
After mentally ticking off a list of local politicians and the like, reality set in and we quickly realized that the effort of contacting any of them would generate at best a bunch of cruddy excuses why they couldn’t attend.
That they weren’t even invited speaks volumes not of those making the invitations, but those whom Commerce Lexington didn’t bother to invite.
While leaders in Franklin and Woodford counties — to name just two — have spent years fostering economic development and job creation, ours have done just the opposite.
While others developed programs to hire emissaries willing to scour the nation for businesses, our leaders have shunned doing the same, opting instead to myopically eschew opportunities and drink their own parochial-laced swill that touts the benefits of being a bedroom community.
How’s that swill taste these days, fellas, when literally hundreds of foreclosed homes and failed business loans are driving your institutions of lower learning into the financial abyss?
It didn’t have to be this way. Over the years Anderson County has been presented opportunities to flourish with jobs and industry, but has turned its back seemingly every time, including within the past decade.
Here’s one that’ll set your hair on fire. United Parcel Service reportedly approached local leaders about a decade ago, inquiring about the empty land across from where Walmart now sits. The story goes that if the county would turn the property into an industrial park with utilities on site, Big Brown would strongly consider turning it into a shipping hub and provide thousands of high-paying jobs.
Of course folks in charge at that time were simply mortified at the prospect of seeing fleets of those awful brown trucks barreling down our Bypass, and the mere notion of outsiders moving in to buy homes and work there must have been an too much of an outrage to even consider.
So, as is our county’s nature, we said no and continued to live in the fantasy world of turning tobacco fields into subdivisions. After all, doing so ensured the right pockets remained stuffed with cash while simultaneously unstuffing everyone else’s pockets when property tax bills came due.
Consider the above the next time little Jimmy or Sally comes home whining about not have a public swimming facility or any of the other amenities that are commonplace in Frankfort, Woodford and other neighboring counties.
And when little Jimmy or Sally grow up, now you’ll know who to blame when they move away in search of a decent paying job.
Speaking of tax bills, curiosity got the best of us last week when we saw a summary of the Anderson Public Library’s budget that was presented to the fiscal court.
We took note rather quickly at several points in the one-page budget summary, including that a facility with seven full-time employees (according to the minimal information available on its website) has an annual payroll of nearly $500,000, along with nearly $50,000 more in line item titled “administration.”
If that seems a bit high, consider that the library operated on $982,585 during the past year, but saw fit to grab $1.35 million from local taxpayers to do so.
As a result, the library has just under $2 million in cash in the bank, fully twice the amount it needs to operate annually.
Of course the fiscal court accepted the summary without question, but we aren’t willing to do the same.
In an effort to better understand why it costs nearly $1 million to operate — and over $1.3 million to fund — the library, The Anderson News has submitted an open records request to review the library’s finances.
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