Excuse me.... Maybe I'm just an irrational Republican in a sea of rational Democrats, but does anybody else think that this shenanigan by Athens City Council to purchase 600 acres from University Estates is a completely irresponsible use of taxpayers' money? Now, don't get me wrong, I'm for protecting our city's water source as well as its view-shed.
Speaking of view-sheds, has anyone taken a recent walk around some of the uptown neighborhoods? If by chance you have, maybe you've noticed that we have some of the worst sidewalks and curbs I've ever seen. Yet, we can spend millions of dollars on land that will never profit the city, only cost it money - money that adds up to millions of dollars that would be better spent on police officers, firefighters, improving waterlines on the east side, improving residential development of the west side, or helping our libraries. Our own mayor said that Athens is below state average for police officers.
According to the Athens City Comprehensive Plan map, all of Columbus Road sits in the wellhead protection area, and it's designated as a "future commercial" site. Isn't it funny that we take an extremely large section of wellhead-protected land and place it in our comprehensive plan as a future commercial site, yet in the same breath, the city completely contradicts itself by saying that any development of the proposed 600 acres, in what is currently known as University Estates, would be a risk and extremely costly? Is the city going to purchase all land located in the wellhead protection area?
This is an obvious ploy by our city officials to use erroneous information to convince the people that their impetuous spending is OK. It is completely inconsiderate of our city officials to spend our money and the money of our grandchildren to "get back" at a developer who has been a thorn in council's side for the past 10 years. If the possible development of these 600 acres is such a risk to our wellheads, what is Columbus Road? What is most of West Union? It is obvious, in these economic times, that spending such a large amount of money is fiscally irresponsible of our elected officials and should require great thought without being rushed.
While I'm at it, I would like to address the disgusting abuse of power put on display by our City Council. First, they call an emergency meeting to discuss the possibility of purchasing these 600 acres. Second, with no public intervention, they decide on their own to start making bids on the property and to obtain a loan. All of this is done without anyone raising the question, "Is this an intelligent use of our resources?"
The reason the American style of government has been so successful at multiple levels is because of its ability to balance power. This doesn't feel balanced, but a little one-sided if you ask me. I thought it was government for the people, by the people. Who's going to repay the deficit caused by this nonchalant use of taxpayers' money?!? You, me and our grandchildren!
I am in full agreement that our wellhead must be protected, but I was also under the impression that that's the reason we developed the wellhead protection ordinance in the first place. The ordinance is in place to help control and regulate how land owners use their land, not to squelch future development.
Our elected officials have lost sight of what's important. Yes, let's protect our environment. Yes, let's be earth friendly. But, we have to make sure we are not neglecting larger, more pressing issues that need to be addressed. In my eyes, our city government enjoys spending money, but has no plan to increase its tax base or annual income. (That's a matter to be saved for another time.)
Now, I don't say all this to endorse any one candidate for City Council in the upcoming elections this fall, but it does seem logical to suggest that the people of Athens' Fourth Ward should take a close look at Randy Morris. We need someone on council who will ask the hard questions and present an opposing view to situations like this. I hope that our city officials open their eyes and realize that they can regulate and control the use of this, now city-annexed, land instead of bringing any future development and increased tax revenue to a complete halt.