Posted by: Ann Corcoran | October 8, 2012

Hagerstown hearing (aka “sales pitch”) for expensive publicly-funded stadium tomorrow evening

“The process had been flawed from the beginning and consequently has bred suspicion.” (Evans)

It is supposed to be a public hearing, but one of those leading the campaign to re-examine this whole project, Hagerstown Tea Party board member Lynda Evans, says this “community meeting” will be a sales pitch for a done-deal.

Here is Evans at Smart Girl Politics last week (emphasis mine):

The community meeting concerning the new Suns stadium is officially scheduled for October 9, 2012 at 6:00 pm, located at the Clarion Hotel* on Dual Highway. I am so pleased that the mayor and council changed the time from 5:00 to 6:00 to give people more time to travel from their workplace and participate in this discussion.

However! Yes, however, I wish that it was more of a discussion rather than a sales pitch. The truth is that the powers that be have already come to a conclusion and now they are merely selling it to the community. The community, also known as the taxpayer and host to this new Suns stadium, has been left pretty much in the dark throughout this process.

[…..]

The process had been flawed from the beginning and consequently has bred suspicion.  

[…..]

Upgrading the Municipal Stadium…non-negotiable! Building it near an interstate…non-negotiable! Private funding…non-negotiable! The plan, or deal, is going to be “presented” with no counter presentation for upgrading Municipal Stadium, no counter-presentation for another site, and no-counter presentation on funding. It’s is a sales pitch.

I guess we should be grateful that they are giving us their presentation and allowing us to speak. I would really be grateful if someone was allowed to present researched facts, case studies, and statistics that gives the community something else to consider, to weigh, to determine if it is worth the risk to proceed.

Hagerstown and Washington County generally should be saving their pennies because the Pension monster is coming!

Yesterday Richard Falknor at Blue Ridge Forum reported on a study from the Maryland Public Policy Institute which informs us that Maryland counties are at the precipice with “staggering” unfunded pension obligations.  The worst numbers appear in data on the OPEB (other post employment benefits) which includes HEALTH CARE and Life Insurance.

Here is what MPPI says:

“The picture painted by the map is not a particularly pretty one. Average unfunded liabilities for pensions and OPEB hover around 50 percent, and counties are spending hundreds of millions of dollars each and every year just to keep treading water.

[….]

When you really drill down like this, you see that the real issue that faces Maryland counties is the rapidly increasing cost of benefits, specifically healthcare,” said Christopher B. Summers, president of the Maryland Public Policy Institute. “County pensions are funded, on average, to 76 percent. That’s not great, but it’s nowhere near as catastrophic as being 91 percent unfunded, which is where the average county finds its OPEB liabilities.”

After spending some time looking at the numbers (I wonder if anyone in Washington County government is looking at the numbers?), one thing I know is that Washington County has a 92% unfunded OPEB!  

This is no time to be going into debt to buy a pig-in-poke like the grandiose $30-45 million (estimates vary) stadium.

If private investors aren’t interested in risking their capital to build this project, then you (the taxpayer!) shouldn’t be either!

For new readers:  For all of our previous mentions of the Hagerstown Suns Stadium go here.

*  Clarion Hotel Hagerstown, here.

Update and semi-correction:  The hearing is at Hager Hall which is at the same address on the Dual Hwy. as the Clarion:

Hager Hall Conference & Event Center
901 Dual Highway Hagerstown, MD 21740
Ph: 301-797-9004 ext. 3 Fax: 301-797-9622

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