How the County
Commission is Handling Our Money Ė
The Smoky Mountain Racetrack Deal
- Today we are hearing a great deal
about the Countyís money problems
- But back in December, when
Commission wanted to spend $785,000 to buy the Smoky Mountain auto racetrack
from Dennis Garnerís, Garners Amusements Inc., we did not hear much about
- Without the issue even being listed
on the meeting agenda, the purchase was first proposed at the December 15
meeting of the Commission. Only a few Commissioners, led by Commissioner
Cardin, expressed concern about the price that Finance Director David
Bennett negotiated on behalf of the Commission. Bob Kidd made a motion to
buy the track, subject to environmental conditions, among others. Only
Commissioners Arwood, Cardin, Dowdy, Graham, and Townsend voted against
- At the January 19 Commission
meeting, again without listing it on the meeting agenda, the Commission
held its final discussion on the purchase of the racetrack. Commissioners
approved the $785,000† price. But,
they went further. At the urging of Commissioner Brock, they decided
not to do soil and water sampling to check for environmental problems,
from the gas and oil that were used at the site. They even
rejected a motion by Commissioner Walker to require the seller to hold the
County harmless if environmental problems are found at the site!
- The site was used as a auto
racetrack for more than 40 years, with quantities of gasoline, oil, and
cleaning solvents present. The County proposes to use the site as a
Fairgrounds where young children will inevitably be in attendance. No
reputable organization would purchase such a site without thorough
- In the end, only Commissioners
Arwood, Cardin, Dowdy, McCall and Townsend voted against the purchase.
- One of the many problems with this
deal was the price the County paid. The new, total full value assessment on the Smoky
Mountain racetrack property is $354,000. The Commissioners paid Dennis
Garner $785,000. Why?
- The Commissioners could try to argue
that the assessorís value is wrong. But a look at the sale history of the
property seems to say the Assessor is right. The property changed hands
four times between 1996 and 2003 when Dennis Garner bought it. Over that
time the value of the property decreased from $350,000 to
the $321,000 that Dennis Garner paid.
- The Commissioners paid a very high
price, $785,000, for the property. Why did they take the additional
steps of killing the environmental study of the site, and not holding
Dennis Garner responsible for any pollution problems on the property.† Now all us taxpayers will have to
pay for any cleanup. Why did the Commission do this?
- Why did the Commissioners pay
$785,000 for a property that has a new assessment of just† $354,000? Nearly everyone would be
happy to sell the County their property for the 2.2 times the new
assessment, that the County paid Dennis Garner.
- The Commissioners have taken
$431,000 of our money and given it to Dennis Garner, apparently for
County Commissioners made David Bennett, our County Finance Director (he
is also Chairman of the local Republican Party) responsible for
negotiating the racetrack deal. We called Bennett to get his explanation for
the very high price we paid. He did not return our calls.
- POSTSCRIPT: Every Republican
Commissioner who voted against the racetrack deal and ran again, found
themselves with a party backed opposition candidate, even though they were
incumbents. And they were all beat in the primaries. Clearly there is
retribution if you vote against the wishes of the Party establishment.