Government arguments hurt everyone in the community

Published 4:40 pm Friday, November 21, 2014

As the sad saga between the City of Bainbridge and Decatur County continues, the first real, tangible consequence of the series of disagreements was felt this week.

A company, currently located in Dothan, Alabama, had been looking to relocate to Decatur County in a vacant building close to the airport in the industrial park. The company refurbishes medical equipment to re-sell and its owner had been working with Rick McCaskill, Executive Director of the Industrial Development Authority, and a local realtor Gene Dunlap in an effort to expand and relocate the business to Decatur County.

However, this week the owner of the company eliminated Decatur County from a possible relocation site. In a message sent to Dunlap, the business owner said, “I cannot get peace about moving forward as planned. I have to say that the atmosphere of the county vs. city did play a part in my decision.”

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Just let that sink in. In a time when our most pressing priority, a priority upon which everyone agrees, is job creation, the “atmosphere of the county vs. city” caused a business owner to make the decision not to bring his jobs to Decatur County.

This scenario cannot be tolerated, is not sustainable, and must come to an end. And, what’s so disturbing about the entire fiasco is that no end is in sight.

The damage done to our community because of the bickering, disagreements, and conflict is beginning to become irreparable. It is disturbing to read what this business owner said, but the most disturbing part comes from those companies that never call, never make contact, or never ask questions. They simply mark us off the list, never to be reconsidered again.

The conversations and discussions to address the main points of contention between the county and the city must begin and must begin now.

The issue of tax inequality is real and will not simply go away. The city felt forced to ask the Superior Court to appoint a mediator just to begin the conversations. That’s what this latest court filing is all about, just to force the county to sit down and begin negotiations.

Up to this point, the conversation has been very one-sided. The city has explained, in painful detail, why the Service Delivery Strategy needs to be renegotiated. There has been no response, none, from the county.

At the Industrial Development Authority board meeting last Thursday, the mood of the attendees went from one extreme to the other. From joy and happiness on the update of the Tradewind Energy solar project to the disappointment and disbelief of learning of that a business would not locate in Decatur County because of the inability to simply discuss the issues at hand.

This should not be tolerated, is not sustainable, and must end quickly.