Thursday, April 20, 2017

"PRIVATE AGENCY" - SCOTT UNITED

What is the Georgetown/Scott County Chamber of Commerce if not a "local private agency that focuses on economic development efforts that will benefit Georgetown, Scott County and the surrounding region"?

That description however was ascribed to Scott County United in the April 11, 2017 Georgetown News Graphic's coverage of Toyota's re-investment in its facility AND its generous $2 million gift to Scott United. What exactly is the role of this curious little "private agency" (as characterized by the GNG article) with zero web presence and tax returns that reflect upwards of 70% of their revenues are spent on "administrative costs" and whose stated purpose mirrors that of the local Chamber of Commerce?

It's a legitimate question, especially considering that Jack Conner, the Executive Director of the Georgetown/ Scott County Chamber of Commerce also participates as a principal of Scott United. And this quote from the same GNG article from local property appraiser and current President of Scott United, Mike Hockensmith - "From the standpoint of Scott County United, this (the $2 mil) puts us on a level to be competitive with the other communities and what kind of expenditures they have for economic development." Hmmm? This statement implies that Jack Conner and his Chamber of Commerce aren't getting the job done for Georgetown and Scott County. We don't think that is the case however.

We think if Scott County United were truly about its stated mission, it would minimally host a web site, don't you think? As of this writing it hasn't, but probably will now, lol. No, we think Scott County United serves some other purpose. Nothing else makes sense.

What could that other purpose be? Well, first consider what Scott United has contributed to the "economic development of Georgetown, Scott County and the surrounding region" all these years - other than its sponsorship of "Leadership Scott County", an effort that hardly consumes the amount of revenue that the "agency's" tax returns reflect passing through? Were this "private agency" performing any works, significant or otherwise, you can bet you would be reading about it ad nauseam in Scott United's pawn publication - the Georgetown News Graphic. But you don't. So we can only speculate, based on what little is known and what is observable from this little "private agency". Here's what we know and what we have observed.

We know that members of this group lay very low, but do show up whenever the Superintendency of Scott County Public Schools is up for grabs. Remember that the Scott County School Superintendent commands a budget ($60 million annually), second only to Toyota locally and commands almost $300 million of bonding capacity.

Recall next that the 2008 Scott Schools Superintendent search generated  applications from 26 qualified candidates, but produced as Superintendent one Patricia Putty, who did not even apply for the position. We also know that soon after her arrival, Patricia Putty served on a community committee to consider a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) arrangement that would have financed the interstate 75 interchange that was first proposed just before her appointment as Superintendent. Had the recession not derailed the TIF, Putty could well have helped the approval of the TIF.

We mention this because concurrent to the TIF effort, Superintendent Putty appointed influential Frankfort lobbyist, Scott County resident and influencer for hire John Cooper to Chair the 2010 Scott County Schools Local Planning Committee and populated the committee with Scott United principal Mike Hockensmith and other Scott United "agents". That very John Cooper chaired and Scott United populated LPC replaced the Scott School's District Facility Plan's next up second high school with an unneeded Lemons Mill Elementary, the outlandish elementary school now replete with lighted tennis courts and ball fields and commonly called "Putty Palace" (especially on Sundays). And we mention THIS because influencer for hire John Cooper was at the time representing the private developer needing an interstate exchange to develop a regional shopping center that would rival Hamburg just east of the Toyota plant. The project was contingent on the interstate exchange being provided by the TIF.

We call the whole debacle - "TIF for TAT". Tat being LME.

The same John Cooper, a long time principal (maybe founder) of Scott County United, was witnessed huddled at Logan's Restaurant in Frankfort with then Scott County Board of Education Chairman Haley Conway; Scott County United's current President Mike Hockensmith (who appraised those years ago the 100 plus acres where ECS sits and Great Crossing High is to be built at $21,000 an acre); Scott County Chamber of Commerce's Executive Director and Scott County United principal Jack Conner; and Toyota's Manager of Community and Government Relations and Scott County United principal Kim Menke. This delicious dinner with Haley Conway and Scott United's big four occurred during the period of time the Scott School Board was considering their choice to replace non-renewed Superintendent Patricia Putty. We are confident that the Scott United contingent called the meeting to "focus on economic development".

Toyota's Menke was also conspicuously witnessed in attendance at several Scott School Board meetings during the same period. Mr. Menke has not attended meetings since the appointment of tax raising Superintendent Kevin Hub nor before the School Board began its Superintendent search. Guess it all falls under his duties as Toyota's Manager of Community and Government Relations. Or whatever his duties are at Scott United.

Toyota's April 10 announcement of the $2 million gift to Scott United came shortly after the deadline for a petition effort that would have required Superintendent Kevin Hub's (or somebody's ) 11% property tax increase to be placed on a ballot had the petition effort been successful. From the same News Graphic article - "the company (Toyota) has been discussing the donations with local government leaders for some months". Hmmm? Wonder if they were waiting for the school's tax increase to pass before passing on $2 million to Scott United? Otherwise the gift may have been seen as a slap in the face to a school district claiming near destitution. Remember that the Scott County School Board was poised to begin construction of a second high school in the spring of 2016 but balked for a lack of $2 million to complete the proposed facility's library.

Where was Scott United, the Chamber of Commerce and Toyota all these years high school students have been packed like sardines in the single SCHS? Nary a word from the Chamber of Commerce or its mirror Scott United concerning a high school situation that surely negatively affected "economic development". It's hard to know where the $4 plus million per year school tax increase will filter, but its clear that all parties are now fat and happy. And it remains curious that Fayette County School's Superintendent Tom Shelton got the boot for a mere $20 million gone missing, yet no one, not even Scott County School's Director of Finance was held accountable for the suppressed $27 million that otherwise would be opening a second high school this August.

And this - in the same edition of the GNG, Georgetown Mayor Tom Prather praised the $2 million gift to Scott County United stating - "(the gift) will allow the agency to perform market research and target specific industries and companies to recruit to the county". Wonder what this leaves the local Chamber of Commerce to do, Mr. Mayor? It will be well after the fact but you can count on us to watch and report on Scott United's tax returns to see if the $2 million gift is spent as the Mayor claims it will.

If you think your elected officials are running Scott County, you are probably paying more attention to Camping World's flag than the fiscal affairs of Scott's public AND private agencies. Nonetheless, it's a legitimate question - why do we need a Chamber of Commerce when Toyota finds its money better spent with "private agency" Scott United?

Happy taxpaying!

1 comment:

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