FORMERLY A COAL RICH AREA, SCOTTS RUN PSD RECENTLY BECAME A TIF PLAN GOLD MINE RIPE TO BE PLUNDERED
And swiftly plundered it was. Long a coal rich area forced into deep poverty by the coal industry and related powers, the Scotts Run area far more recently saw its Public Service District (PSD) about to be transformed into a gold mine, due to the impending influx of WVU “Ballpark TIF” funds. Instead, this major gold vein has now been pre-emptively plundered by the powers of Morgantown and Monongalia County. This is history repeating itself, first as brutal tragedy and now as seeping farce.
What happened? The “ballpark TIF” plan happened. And it happened in the Scotts Run PSD, which was then immediately forcibly taken over. Those tens of millions of dollars of infrastructure improvements now locked-in to the TIF district will no longer be going to the Scotts Run PSD, which was scandalously dissolved, its resources and organizational capacity taken over and handed to the Morgantown Utility Board (MUB). Those new millions of TIF plan dollars will now be going to MUB rather than to Scotts Run PSD, due to the legally dubious and ethically disreputable actions of the Scotts Run PSD board members appointed by the Monongalia County Commission – which will be dispensing the TIF plan infrastructure fund.
By stacking the Scotts Run PSD Board, the Monongalia County Commission instigated the Scotts Run PSD dissolution and then approved MUB’s takeover of the PSD. The either ignorant or uncaring Morgantown City Council dutifully rubber stamped MUB’s “acquisition” of the Scotts Run PSD as orchestrated by the County Commission and its PSD appointees.
The recently passed “ballpark TIF” plan legislation obligates the Monongalia County Commission to spend tens of millions of local tax dollars – for up to the next 30 years – on infrastructure improvements in the TIF district (that is, in the University Town Centre area and in most all land stretching around and west from there to Mylan Park) – the TIF district being in the province of the now former Scotts Run PSD. Some people or some entities apparently wanted that massive amount of money and control for the next 3 decades to be taken out of the hands of the people of Scotts Run, who cannot seem to ever be pillaged enough to satisfy the local powers and string pullers.
Apparently the Monongalia County Commission did not want to work with the people of Scotts Run, let alone fund the Scotts Run PSD, which would have had the responsibility for making the infrastructure upgrades that the commission intends to and must fund in the TIF district in the near future and for the next 3 decades.
Scotts Run PSD might have reasonably used the influx of TIF funds to necessarily build up its organizational and material capacity and to also negotiate with the County Commission over funding and materials for a needed expansion of Scotts Run PSD sewer services to far flung Scotts Run area residents, beyond the TIF district. Quite possibly the County Commission did not want to be beholden to the Scotts Run Public Service District which has residents with more pressing needs than can be found anywhere in the County Commission’s “ballpark TIF” district – that scandalous local taxpayer gift to WVU and private commerce.
It seems that a lot has been going on behind closed doors in Monongalia County against the public’s interest, and possibly in stark violation of open government “sunshine” laws. What a shock. On the other hand, when the good old boys meet up one on one around town while appointing each other to public boards that then dissolve public entities out of existence – thereby gutting the public, shifting millions of dollars and badly needed organizational capacity away from the people – that’s certainly another method by which governmental transparency laws can be sneaked around, keeping all sorts of private wheelings and dealings secret from the public.
The lifting of the Scotts Run PSD data on computer hard drives this past October by the County Commission-chummy Scotts Run PSD board members ostensibly for security reasons was a curious episode in this hit and run farce, to say the least. Security from whom? Securing the public’s information from the public? Why remove the Scotts Run PSD data ostensibly to “secure” it mere months before dissolving the PSD and handing it over to MUB under the cool gaze of the County Sheriff’s department? Why remove and “secure” that Scott’s Run PSD data in October 2012? To prepare a slick transfer of Scotts Run PSD operations to MUB months before the public could have any clue of what was being done to them?
These particular individuals, officials, and agencies should be held to account as much as possible. The people of Scotts Run are doing the right thing in trying to reverse the shady dissolution of the Scotts Run PSD by acting first at the local level and now at the state and possibly judicial levels. Failing at those levels, Scotts Run PSD residents would be in a much weakened position to gain expanded sewerage on their own, suddenly absent their own PSD, let alone to negotiate with either MUB or the County Commission expansion of needed sewerage services to the Scotts Run area. Virtually all the local municipalities and powers have a both long and recent history of not only failing the Scotts Run area but of plundering it.
Meanwhile, the County Commissioners are subject to election (as is of course the Morgantown City Council) and could be replaced and should be pressured to do more for Scotts Run area residents. Toward this end, no matter the near term outcome, the Scotts Run PSD dissolution and takeover scandal could be and should be held over the heads of these officials and these public bodies from now on. They need to better serve and protect the public, by far, and especially the Scotts Run area, which going back nearly a century, has been both a regional and national site and symbol of social and economic neglect and abuse.
Congratulations to Morgantown and to Monongalia County. Congratulations to us all. We’ve come a long way by dissolving the Scotts Run Public Service District, and by taking over its hard won materials and capacities, and by preparing to swallow up its impending flood of TIF gold. We’ve come a long, long way.
The failure to learn to respect the dignity, let alone the organizational capacity and the would-be wealth, of the people of Scotts Run: yet another repugnant, and historical, farce.
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