I spoke with Commissioner Nolte this week. He’s going to hold a Town Hall meeting to discuss the $50 million certificate of participation (bond) proposal that Commissioners Ridgeway and Owen are trying to ram down our throats.

I’m going to try and make this and video the entire thing. I would be nice to see a strong crowd there.

The event will be held at Bridgeview Hall at 1041 Burlington St. on Thursday, October 11 at 5:30 PM.

Imagine… a public servant taking it upon himself to hold a public town hall in the evening, not 4:00 PM on a Friday.

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A significant amount of money from the $50 million certificates of participation that Commissioners Owen and Ridgeway are wanting to spend involves a new Clay County Annex. 

For those that don’t know what the Clay County Annex is, it’s a second building of the County’s that provides some County government functions. It’s supposed to help people in the County who are farther away from the Clay County Courthouse in Liberty, MO. It’s located down in Kansas City at 1901 NE 48th St.

I’ll be the first to grant the Commissioners the point that the building leaves more to be desired and has some problems. Doing something about it could be, and probably is, justifiable.

The question becomes just what is justifiable.

I’ve been told that the proposed new building might cost as much as $20 million dollars. I don’t have any firm information because, well, no one really does.

You swing over to the highly advanced, and modern, Clay County, Missouri web page and you get little, if any, information in the news section. Seems we went through a 2 year period where there wasn’t any news at all to print back in 16 and 17.

Interestingly, you do get a little bit of propaganda about the tax levy kerfuffle. Business as usual folks, your Commissioners unanimously froze tax rates after Commissioner Ridgeway rode in on her legislative steed and saved the day.

Clay County Front Page

Funny, I don’t see a news item from 2017 saying Commissioners raised your taxes in a 2-1 vote. Oh, well, that news wasn’t fit to print. Busy, busy running the County, or something.

Great news though, the County is continuing “to move forward with multiple improvement projects addressing deferred maintenance and infrastructure upgrades and is committed to taking on these tasks without raising taxes.”

Sigh…

One would think that if you were about to leverage the citizens of the County for a cool $20 million that you might want to tell us about your grand scheme.

And that’s where the questions begin to get really interesting.

I find it peculiar that we’re talking about a $20 million dollar building when there’s been no serious public discussion about what this building will look like and where it might be located.

Do architectural plans for said building even exist?

If they do, how were they created?

Was there an RFP?

Who created them?

How was this architect chosen?

If plans don’t exist, how did you arrive at the $20 million?

Did you consult an architectural firm without the full knowledge of the entire commission, or did you all throw darts at a dart board?

Dart throw

Possible future architectural consultant for Clay County, Missouri?

If architectural plans exist, where is this new building going?

Or, more interestingly, do you have an actual parcel of land that you’re going to build on?

That’s a really interesting question actually, and I’m hearing some really interesting rumors.

I’ve been asking around a lot to try and figure out if it’s true or not. I’m not naming any specific names, but will if it can be proven.

There is an individual that may be a friend of a specific Commissioner who could be involved in the land transaction where this new building may set.

Now, I’d like to believe that this is a rumor and is not true, because if a friend of a specific Commissioner financially benefited from a deal like this, it would look really bad.

But, hey, just rumors, right?

I’m a practical guy. I often think we should think a little different in government. After all, it’s my money you’re forcefully confiscating, so you’d think you would want to be as responsible as possible.

Has anyone considered looking at existing office space or older strip malls for the Annex?

The Annex is functional. It serves a purpose. It doesn’t have to be an amazing building. It just needs to do what it’s supposed to do.

Considering a lease agreement on some sort of existing space could save tax payers a boatload of money, and potentially bring more business traffic to another part of the County.

Not saying I’m right here, or if it’s even possible, but we have no idea what you have considered thus far. Again, I’m part of the nearly 8,000 citizens who don’t trust anything you do.

Commissioners Owen and Commissioners Ridgeway would make the most responsible choice they’ve ever made if they just stopped everything on this. If they seriously want to proceed, they need to treat the citizens of Clay County with some respect and start giving us specifics and details. Quit hiding behind executive sessions.

I have spent some time trying to get up to speed on what is exactly going on with this $50 million dollars that Commissioners Ridgeway and Owen are wanting to spend. (Please note, Commissioner Nolte does not want to spend it.)

I assure you, this is something you need to know about and something you should consider doing something about.

I was originally told this was a bond, to be more exact, it’s what is termed a “certificate of participation (COP)”. It’s a form of a bond.

By using a COP the county is essentially going to lease-finance the projects. What happens is that certificates of participation are issued to participating investors. Investors then receive payment under the lease-purchase contract. Here’s a more in depth explanation on Investopedia.

The most important difference between a COP and a bond that you should know about is that they do not have to have any support from the public to do this. Right now as it stands, without a large public outcry about this, Ridgeway and Owen can vote on the final terms of the Certificates, and boom we’re $50 million in debt.

You have to marvel at the audacity of these two individuals.

They just had 7,925 citizens sign a petition demanding that the County be audited. It’s abundantly clear that they’ve lost the support of the people. But, hey, let’s just power through and put those same people on the hook for $50 million dollars worth of projects.

They are asking for a sum that is about 1/2 the size of the budget for the entire year. In typical Luann Ridgeway and Gene Owen fashion, they’re just going to do it.

Ridgeway Owen Nike Posters

Don’t you think we at least deserve to see a specific list of projects that are involved here?

All we get is one paragraph in Resolution 2018-298 that states the following: “(a) the construction of a new County Annex Building, (b) improvements to the County Administration Building and the Shrader Building, (c) improvements to the golf courses of the County, (d) improvements to the marinas of the County, (e) improvements of park properties, (f) improvements to historic sites, and (g) road and bridge improvements.

You’re going to spend $50 million on all this… I might not even disagree that some of it could be justified.

But what specifically are you going to do? Have you done your diligence in preparing these projects? Or, for that matter, do the projects even exist with cost estimates at all?

To make matters worse, you don’t even have a County Administrator right now because you got rid of the one you gave a 44% salary increase to and then later casted to the side.

Hell, even Kansas City at least had the decency to attempt to prepare a list of items they might address when they went to the voters and passed their GO bonds not too long back.

I get it, you guys think you’re experts about everything and you know best. Unfortunately, I’m part of the nearly eight thousand Clay Countians who think you’re dishonest and incompetent.

If I was a betting man, I’d say you have absolutely nothing detailed prepared, and you’re just taking a swing at how much money you want.

The thing that concerns me the most about all this is it’s a $50 million dollar liability with no funding mechanism dedicated to cover it. They’re going to pull the payments out of general revenue. When the economy rolls over again, we’re on the hook for paying this back somehow.

And if you think that the economy can’t and won’t roll over again in the next few years you’ve lost your mind. That would make you as ignorant as the same people who said everything was fine in 2007 before the economy exploded.

We are living in one of the biggest asset bubbles in human history. The next recession will see massive asset devaluations. (I may write a post soon explaining the economics behind what I’m talking about.)

When assets (businesses, homes, cars, you know, “real property” that we own but have to pay taxes on to continue to own) devalue, tax revenues reduce because they are a direct result of asset value. (Sidenote: This is what makes property taxes one of the WORST ways to fund government. Revenues fall almost a year after the economy contracts adding pain to local budgets because bureaucrats seem to think there’s no such thing as rainy day until their standing in a puddle.) When this happens, the county could easily be forced into a situation to increase property taxes just to be able to make the lease payment on the COPs, or to keep overpriced staff employed (don’t forget their pensions and health care plans. I know, I know, they’re public servants, never mind us pensionless serfs).

We all need to watch this one because I suspect what is going to happen is that the final approval of the COPs will be hoisted onto a meeting agenda at the last possible second. I’m being told it may be the middle of October, but I wouldn’t bet on it. I’ll do my best to keep an eye out for it. I get it. A lot of you are busy, I am too, but we had 3 dozen or so people show up to oppose the tax increase that wasn’t supposed to be a tax increase, it would be nice to see twice that crowd in the room.