Guest column: Opposed to the M&M purchase

Kudos to Commissioners Leanne Freeman and Bill Leary for having shown a tremendous amount of “responsible sense” by voting against the purchase of the M&M Market.

The logic expressed by the other Commissioners is inexplicably illogical.

By taking title to the Market, the Commissioners claim to remove the criminal elements because they are now “in control.” They admittedly have known about the criminal elements for years, but have not been able to fix the problem.

Therefore, they are willing to spend $300,000 of taxpayer’s money to buy the Market and take it off the tax rolls.

One day they will figure out what can be done with the building.

For $300,000, we could park a deputy on-site for the next 10 years and get rid of the criminal element. Instead, we have removed a tax revenue source which generated $6,580 in 2010. In future years, that amount would increase annually as values increase.

Here is what we are losing: annual revenue to the County ($1,670), City ($2,262) and School Board ($2,433) plus two civilian businesses, at least one of which provided valuable services to the community. Those civilian businesses are getting harder to find!

But here is the good news. We are gaining: an old building with no governmental functional utility and no historical significance; a major expense to remodel an old building to suit an undefined purpose; an additional major expense to bring the building up to City and State building and health codes; an annual expense to maintain the building; an annual expense to staff and operate any such operation and an additional liability for future potential claims.

So, what are the real benefits of purchasing the Market…I can’t find any!

This appears to be a simple case of political desire rather than a case of community necessity or practicality. By the way, where is the money coming from. The Commissioners have a very tight budget, but in less than a week they can find $300,000 to make this purchase?

What is so special about this old building that makes it a higher priority than numerous other “old eyesores” within the City, such as re-setting the bricks on St. George Street, Riberia Street or Charlotte Street; improving sidewalks in North City, Lincolnville or West Augustine; or upgrading the entrance corridors of King Street and San Marco.

After more than 4 years of doing nothing, how about fixing the Willie Gallimore Center; the old Garden Center building on north San Marco; dredging Lake Maria Sanchez as promised; or upgrading the sewer and drain pipes throughout the downtown area?

In addition, the annual $6,500 in tax revenues lost plus the annual maintenance and operating costs could go a long way toward other upgrade and maintenance problems throughout the city each year. Those costs, which have not been considered, could easily exceed $100,000 per year.

One criterion elected officials should use to evaluate any purchase: Is the purchase such a good and necessary deal that they would spend their own money to buy the property. If not, then don’t spend taxpayer’s money to buy it. This is one time they did not accurately assess the purchase.

My suggestion, cancel the purchase before the contract is signed, increase police monitoring of the area and give some incentives to the owners to enhance the property. That will benefit Lincolnville and the surrounding community far better.

Bruce Maguire
St. Augustine

Photo credits: © 2010 Historic City News staff photographer

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