Kumho is a Korean tire company that will soon be opening a plant in Macon in the near future. As is often the case, these companies shop around in various states and try and secure the best tax deals possible in addition to making sure they choose the best sites and other criteria when they choose locations. They will often have states and even counties within a state bidding against each other to secure the project which can bring many jobs with them. Counties will often do their best to sweeten the deal to secure new jobs in the area.
After around six years of searching and negotiations Kumho, finally agreed to open and invest around $415 million into this project in Macon which will provide a much needed injection to the local economy. It is also projected to add around 450 jobs.
The Macon Telegraph has done it’s absolute best to spin the tax dispute between the county government, the Industrial Authority, and the Board of Education as a money grab by the BOE. Now it is very true that while the Board of education was under the control of a very inept idiot by the name of Tommy Barnes as the chair and Dallemand, the BOE made some absolutely stupid decisions. For that reason people have a right to be suspicious of their motives. However, the old BOE which included the BOE5 majority that consisted of Barnes, West, Hudson, Middleton, and Carter no longer have the same power now that new members have taken their seat. Three of the clowns that rubber stamped the Dallemand madness from the last board remain, Hudson, Carter, and West but they no longer have their 5-3 majority and the new Board has actually done a decent job of truing to clean up the Dallemand and BOE5 mess made by the previous BOE.
There is no question in my mind if the BOE still had the same 5 people that voted for all of Dallemand’s lunacy they would have caved to Cliffard Whitby’s demands immediately without any due diligence or deliberation. Luckily this new Board had the fortitude and resolve to make sure our students and teachers were not being robbed again of millions of much needed funds.
Gary Bechtel, a former school board member, said he understood the school board’s position since previous similar payments have never included the Industrial Authority.
“I understand the school system’s concerns,” he said. “If I was still on the (school) board, I don’t know if I’d have felt any different. Economic development is (the county’s) responsibility and will remain our responsibility. They have a different responsibility.”
Another aspect of the deal that was changed by the school board and also was approved by commissioners is how the authority can spend its money from Kumho. Originally, the proposal called for the Industrial Authority to use the money to acquire land for future development and potentially fund its own operation should county funding cease. Finding other sources of revenue was a directive former Bibb County Chairman Sam Hart had given the authority.
Bibb county Board of Education member Lester Miller had this to say in regards to a hit piece by Charles Richardson who not surprisingly came to the aid of his dear pal Cliffard Whitby. Richardson and Whitby are old allies from the Dallemand days. Whitby is famous for his Promise Neighborhood notoriety who always seems to have his hand deep in the Bibb county taxpayer cookie jar. This is not an official statement made on behalf on the Board of Education just his personal opinion and assessment.
This article couldn’t be further from the truth. Please at least make an attempt to investigate the facts before they are misrepresented to the public. What ever happened to fair and balanced?
A few of the facts are as follows: The School board received a contract and an unannounced presentation by the Mayor at 4:00 on November 20. This Kuhmo agenda item was to be added to the meeting and the board was asked to vote prior to reading the contract the same day. The item was tabled until December 2.The County and Industrial Authority had already worked out an agreement on how to spend the BOE share without consultation with the BOE.
There was never any risk that Kuhmo tire deal was in jeopardy ( please review taped conversation by the mayor at the school board meeting in which he replied that Kuhmo is coming no matter what ). The only issue was the division of money. The BOE became aware that a hearing for bond validation was already set for December 2 and was scheduled prior to the BOE receiving the agreement. The School board scheduled a special called meeting the day before Thanksgiving to provide ample time for Commissioners and Industrial Authority to review the requested changes. The BOE requested a particular clause to be removed so that the money that was given up would be used for its intended purpose.
Was there a lack of communication between the taxing authorities? The answer is probably so. Do I believe it is the fault of the BOE? Certainly not. The stakeholders should be thankful that the BOE had the fortitude to review the documents thoroughly and not give up 4 million dollars of our students money. This will allow our teachers to obtain the resources needed for our students so that great companies like Kuhmo will have an educated workforce.
Please do not ask me to rubber stamp… as a matter of fact I think the last I checked the ink for that stamp went dry in Haiti! Legal Disclosure………I am not authorized to speak for the board and any comments contained herein are my personal opinion. The facts however speak for themselves.
This comment by Miller seems to support my suspicions and just gut feeling that there was far more to this story than Charles Richardson or the Macon Telegraph wanted to report. If Cliffard Whitby was involved in the deal I knew there had to be much more to the story. Just today it was announced that a school he purchased for peanuts on the dollar at price of around $220,000 from the Bibb BOE was sold back to them for $8.5 million. This was the deal that Barnes and Dallemand cooked up with Whitby and had our current BOE on the hook for. I believe the lease was illegal for a number of reasons and would have preferred they fought this deal instead of paying Whitby his ransom money.
Three members Susan Sipe, Lester Miller, and Jason Downey opposed the deal and Lynn Farmer who usually tends to be a rational member supported it. I plan to write an article on this subject in the near future and will give Ms. Farmer the benefit of the doubt before I jump to any conclusions. I would also love to get a statement from her on the rationale for her vote.
I understand that the purchase will likely save Bibb taxpayers millions since the final cost could have approached $20 million after 10 years, but I also understand that if the lease agreement had been made null and void then the BOE should have backed out of this agreement completely. I would have liked to have seen them fight to make it void.
There is absolutely no good reason why Cliffard Whitby, a man with only a high school degree, was ever appointed by Mayor Reichert to head our Industrial Authority in the first place. Have you ever heard this guy speak? To say that he is inarticulate is a massive understatement. How could a man whose only talent seems to be his ability to keep being appointed to various government agencies and get government contracts expected to bring in companies to Bibb? This man is always front and center of nearly all the recent controversies in Macon when it comes to millions in taxpayer funds and I hope the BOE will sever all ties with him completely in the future.
In fact I question all of the members of our Industrial Authority Board. Why in the hell is our Mayor on the board or does he have the power to appoint the entire board? Sam Hart, Dallemand’s next door neighbor and avid supporter, who has no real private business experience is also on the board. The entire Board is basically appointed by the mayor so the chance that there will be any difference of opinion is not likely. Hart like Whitby always seems to be in the mix on these decisions.
Compare our Industrial authority with Laurens county which has been kicking Macon’s ass in terms of recruiting companies to locate there. They have seven members with far more impressive résumés and credentials than the one in Bibb. I am not sure how they are selected in Laurens county but I certainly notice the absence of Water Authority members or a mayor. I also see a range of private business, engineering, math, and other impressive degrees and experience. Is it any wonder why Laurens County seems to be attracting so many more businesses to their county than Bibb given the consistency and quality (or lack thereof) in Bibb?
So please be careful not to jump to conclusions when it comes to buying the propaganda from Charles Richardson as he tries to spin this as a money grab by the Bibb BOE. This seems to have been a money grab by an incompetent Bibb Industrial Authority to take the heat off of their incompetence and inability to attract nearly as many new companies to locate to Bibb as other counties in Georgia.
P.S. Does anyone have some property they want to sell me far below market value then allow me to charge you to do repairs and then lease it back from me at an outrageously overpriced rate and also pay far above fair market value in a few years? This seems to a popular way to do business in Bibb so I want to get in on the action as well.