02/21/09 — Build it, then ... Having the money isn't only concern for future projects

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Build it, then ... Having the money isn't only concern for future projects

There is a drunken sailor approach that goes along with any discussion of government money.

And in many cases, although they are significant in themselves, the costs of constructing the civic center, recreation center or other projects are not what really should concern the taxpayers who will have to foot the bill.

So while it is exciting to hear what federal stimulus money that comes through the state budget might purchase here locally, this community needs to think long-term to what comes next.

Any project that this community undertakes right now must be able to exist without costing a great deal of money to operate.

Let's boil it down even further: Taxpayers will not be able to afford to subsidize any operational costs while something "gets off the ground." Not this year. Not in the next two years.

So any project that is sponsored by a councilman or a commissioner -- or a school board member for that matter -- must have been thought through thoroughly before it appears on any agenda for discussion.

There are a couple of projects in the hopper right now that might be worth talking about -- additions to this community that might improve the quality of life here.

But there are questions, too, about the costs of keeping those projects afloat while the city or county figures out how to make the money necessary to keep them in the black.

The unfortunate consequence of a big glut of government money -- and the ensuing battle to capture it -- is that getting it is much more important and time-sensitive than it should be.

Wayne County and Goldsboro officials are right to be skeptical of any freebies -- especially at a time when budgets are so precariously balanced.

There will be some lobbying for funds for local projects in the very near future -- as there should be. But as the proposals begin to hit the agendas of our local government entities, taxpayers and watchdogs of all sorts need to ask the right questions.

All personnel associated with the projects must have the experience and the resumes to manage the budgets, to handle the marketing and to make the efforts pay for themselves. This cannot be a training ground -- not now.

Realistic expectations are also critical. What will it really cost to operate a new recreation or civic center? Can we turn a profit in time to break even quickly?

In this economy, those questions matter.

Sanity is what is needed now -- and good, hard analysis. That is how you keep a good investment from becoming yet another government boondoggle.

Published in Editorials on February 21, 2009 11:54 PM