Sep 082008
 
TheWobblingGurney_cartoon.jpg

I
n a move that could be best described as “reconsidering our options”, but more accurately as stepping away from the edge of the precipice, the County Commissioners voted to pause in Alan Baucom’s headlong effort to give away Union County’s premier asset, the Union County Medical Center.

Carolina Healthcare Services (CHS) had petitioned for a 18 year contract contract extension, initially negotiated and recommended to the commissioners by the Citizens Trustee Council (CTC), a carefully selected and very loyal assemblage of the old guard luminaries, and expected little resistance to their gambit. Not only does the contract gives CHS the milk, they want the milking machines, the cow and and the farm too. In the end, the taxpayers are financing CHS in a rent to own, contract extension.

At Monday’s commissioners meeting, it was decided to 1) hire a law firm to review the contract and conditions and 2) hire an accountant to assess the value of the hospital complex, with a report to be produced and presented to the County Commissioners within 45 days.

County manager Al Greene stated the legal and asset review was in lieu of having a competitive bid process in place.

Why The Rush

The reader should consider the following facts; 1) the current contract still has 12 years to go (expires 2020), 2) the contract extension as submitted, will pay Union County a $25 million ‘signing bonus’, $2.75 million per year lease payment and a $200 million dollar investment over 10 years, and two 20 year extension options that would allow CHS to lease the property to 2088.

A few alarm bells went off in the heads of our county staff when they realized that the $200 million of investment that CHS promised included credit for investments of all types the corporation made anywhere in Union County. Building bonds, interest expense and every kind of ancillary costs to CHS’s Union County operations would be plowed into $200 million dollar lease compensation figure.

Remember this is supposed to be part of a lease package for only the hospital property. Wouldn’t it be nice if your home mortgage holder would give you credit towards your mortgage payments for all the money you spend on electricity, water and natural gas?

What a deal for CHS, no competition, fronted by Union County’s good ole boy elite and Commissioner Baucom.

Just as an aside, in case you were wondering, the rush to approve the contract may have more to do with who gets to spend the $25 million lease down payment, than what it is spent on.

VIEW CONTRACT & REVISION:

Original Lease – 1995 {click}

Lease Change – 2008 {click}

Sep 082008
 

By Hughie Sexton

The single most important, broad based, and comprehensive ordinance in Union County history, the A.P.F.O. was successfully defended before Superior Court Judge Chris Collier on August 21, 2008 by attorneys Ligon Bundy and Mark White. Judge Collier rendered his decision on September 4th.

No other ordinance in Union County or N.C. history has ever had this kind of scrutiny, and staggering amount of input from it’s citizens. All fourteen municipalities were represented on the Task Force charged with crafting this ordinance, along with county staff, managers, attorneys, stakeholders and consultant which took 2 1/2 years & 25,000 hours of community grass roots input.

The homebuilders were formally invited on three different occasions to participate in crafting this ordinance, and never responded!

The A.P.F.O. is a fair ordinance for everyone, and puts the needs of the county above private and special interests groups including developers and homebuilders.

The Union County Public School System is the biggest beneficiary of the A.P.F.O. with its limited restrictions on residential development within already overcrowded school districts, while having no restrictions at all in uncrowded school districts. Nothing could be fairer or more reasonable!

However, fairness and reason was not the objective from those who challenged the ordinance. Their objection to the A.P.F.O. was confusing, convoluted, and defied logic, reason and most of all, fairness. The attorney for the plaintiffs argued that the A.P.F.O. was an Impact Fee, which it is not! They argued that it was an illegal tax, which it is not! And, they argued that it was a defacto moratorium, which it is not!

Recklessly building subdivision after subdivision for years while sticking the costs of school construction & infrastructure to accommodate the challenges of a growing county on the backs of the property owners and taxpayers was business as usual and the way things were done for a long, long time.

The special interests groups, primarily developers and homebuilders have stuffed the campaign coffers of their chosen candidates over the years to continue the status quo, and continue the obscene practice of build, build, build as business as usual. Please check the campaign finance reports of our current commissioners for verification.

These special interest groups have contributed so much money for so long to maintain this practice, that they thought it was some kind of inherited or constitutional right.

Nothing motivates or inspires quite like the backhand of arrogance, and that’s precisely what each taxpayer and property owner in Union County have received from these greed driven special interests groups for many years.

The A.P.F.O. puts the responsibility of building in an already overcrowded school district squarely where it should be, and that’s with those who are profiting at the expense of us all.

The A.P.F.O. utilizes the timing and sequencing of development to regulate and link subdivision approval with classroom availability. Nothing could be more even handed or desperately needed in Union County than this ordinance!

Managing growth for the first time in our county’s history requires more courage than simply removing the cheese from a Big Mac, plus the A.P.F.O. deserves a strong advocacy in lieu of the simple lip service support it currently has from some current timid commissioners.

Finally, having fairness and reason prevail once again on the growth issues of a fast growing county is a wonderful compliment to the incredibly inspiring and competent legal counsels who defended this ordinance.

On behalf of every Mom & Dad whose children have attended an overcrowded school in Union County, this should be a breath of fresh air.

Hughie Sexton is a Former County Commissioner and Weddington Councilman