The City Spends Our Money Too Easily
Tonight the City Council will discuss issuing a General Obligation Bond in the amount of $13,500,000.00 plus cost of issuance, plus interest, this will add up to us owing a grand total of $17,934.972.53, to be paid back over the next 20 years. This is our hard earned tax dollars that will pay back this loan.
At last week's City Council Meeting, the Mayor was the tie break vote on the Bledsoe Springs Development Annexation and Rezoning. She voted NO, stating "…my concern with a development like this, and it's because we've let so many of them happen, it's land that we don't have to accommodate within our city limits at this time. I think at some point, it can be appropriate, but I think right now, we are struggling to absorb so much that is within our community - or not struggling, I shouldn't say that. I do feel like we have planned well and we are prepared for it. But I just feel like going outside of our city limits to bring in land, (when) we would really like to focus on redevelopment in our existing city limits, is not a smart thing to do, so I choose not to support it, so I'm going to vote no."
I'm wondering how much of this GO Bond is to pay for this struggle to accommodate and absorb all of the growth that has been approved in the past several years? It's easy to approve too many annexations when it's "the City's" money that will be paying for all the services.
Also on the council agenda tonight is the reimbursement to the City of $5K from a developer. Yes, this is all connected - because it seems to me, that our City Council is not careful with our money. I think they spend it too easily, and then don't pay attention to the follow up. Is it because it is not their money? It's easy not to pay attention when it's not your money, isn't it?
About that $5K, In 2019, the City of Gallatin used its eminent domain powers against a private party (a property owner on Long Hollow Pike) on behalf of another private party (the developer of the Chandler Apartments on Greenlea Blvd). This was the first time the city had ever used its eminent domain powers on the behalf of a private party. The city council had to vote to allow this. On January 15, 2019, the council vote was 6 yes, 1 no. Lynda Love was the only no vote. The city attorney stated clearly at the city council meeting that the developer had committed to reimburse the city for their outside legal fees. I remember saying to Michelle, my wife, that I do not believe it is the city's place to sue one private party on behalf of another private party. That it should be a negotiation between the two parties.
On September 8, 2020, Michelle did a FOIA request to see the documents pertaining to the billing and reimbursement of the money spent by the City in this matter. What we discovered was that after our FOIA on Sept. 8, the very next day, Sept. 9, our city attorney sent an email to the developer stating "after reviewing documents related to this matter in my office today, I confirmed that the City has not been reimbursed for its attorneys' fees and court costs in the condemnation litigation for the sewer easement across the above-referenced property. My assistant and I both recall requesting reimbursement last year from another representative, but we cannot find documentation that we formally made the request in writing. … Please make payment to the City of Gallatin in the amount of $5,042.45 for reimbursement of the fees and expenses the City expended…"
The developer wrote the City a check on September 10, 2020. The City has now received that check as of last week, more than a year past the time that the case was settled and dismissed. Yes - that's right. The city was unsuccessful in its attempt to use eminent domain in this matter, and the matter was settled between the two private parties, with the case being dismissed in July of 2019.
So, If we, as private citizens had not followed up on this with a FOIA, and asked to see the documents, this would have slipped through the cracks. $5K is a lot of money to just forget about. I'm wondering how many times has this happened? How much of our money has been easily spent and forgotten about? This is our hard-earned money, our tax dollars. Why didn't any of the council people follow up on this and ask about this in the last year?
And now they are discussing us going into a significant amount of debt. This is our money they are spending. I hope they remember that!