THE “BALLPARK TIF” DISTRICT DOES NOT EXIST IN ISOLATION, THEREFORE FUNDS SHOULD BE USED, CONTROLLED, AND GENERATED IN THE TIF DISTRICT BY THE COUNTY, TO DIRECTLY SUPPORT AND BENEFIT AS WELL THE ENTIRE COUNTY AND REGIONAL PUBLIC
Or: HOW TO AVOID LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR SPRAWL IN THE “BALLPARK TIF” DISTRICT
Or: A GOOD EARLY USE OF IMAGINATION COULD GO A LONG WAY TOWARD MAXIMIZING THE PUBLIC BENEFIT OF THE “BALLPARK TIF” PLAN
As long as the monies are now locked in, Monongalia County badly needs major public facilities and services created and located in the new “Ballpark TIF” district. Tens of millions or hundreds of millions of local tax dollars are now by law obligated to be spent in that district over the next 30 years, so there had better be a lot that is firmly under public control by the end of the three decades. There had better be a whole network of county facilities and operations providing services and infrastructure for the district, for the surrounding areas, and for the general public in ways that serve and can be used by the entire county population, who come and go from the TIF district or live near it (which essentially everyone in the county and region does). No sector functions in isolation. What happens in this large designated TIF district will have a huge effect on the rest of the county and the region, even state. Thus broad county (and state) needs should be funded in this district, as well as the micro area TIF district needs.
The county should outright own the ballpark site and the stadium and use the whole ballpark site for multiple uses that benefit the entire county, as well as the TIF district.
The sweeping parking lots of the ball stadium could be used on a regular basis – year round – for a recycling center and regular recycling dropoff events. There will be no ball games in the winter at the ballpark, so it had better be well used during the cold months for county needs, since it will be all county and local taxpayer funds that are used to build and landscape the entire stadium facility and site. Quality outbuildings and other infrastructure should be built on the ballpark acreage to help provide such services. The “ballpark facility” should be named something like: The West Virginia Monongalia County Center (The WVMC Center).
A county medial clinic could be built somewhere in the TIF district, including counseling services and drug and alcohol rehabilitation opportunities to serve the TIF district and county.
A low-cost but healthy county grocery (and essentials) store and county eateries should go in. Hey, why should only wealthy private businesses generate revenue from the flood of local tax funds that have been committed to the district? That would be special interest business theft of public funds.
A high quality public exercise and recreation and community center should be built and geared especially toward wintertime use, to help alleviate area depression and a whole range of mental and physical ailments and diseases too common to Appalachia. Such a center could readily be financially self-sustaining once built – not unlike a ballpark.
Many other TIF fund uses and public needs could be paired. The county should put out a call to all regional social welfare services, planning groups, and community organizations to gather ideas, and to plan to get together to make a reality as many good ideas as possible that well serve the public. Otherwise, the TIF district is likely to transform over the next three decades into lowest common denominator sprawl.
The County Commission should work very hard to make sure that the three decades of local taxes collected as part of this Tax Increment Financing plan will generate a lasting public impact and generate sustainable and renewable public revenues directly to the county too, and not only to the businesses who are licking their chops at the banquet of local public funds soon to be rolling their way.
After all, whose money is it? And whose plan is it? That of the public. Private business interests are a secondary and subordinate part of society and civilization, though they too often act like they are the boss and the end all be all. The County needs to start acting like it knows its fundamental and preeminent position in regard to the TIF plan and the public monies and the public responsibilities in its trust.