Every piece of land owned by the government is a drain on taxpayers. That's because government property brings in zero tax revenue, while any upkeep puts taxpayers further in the hole.
All this is a fact of government life. Put it on steroids and you've got the county's closed landfill. But put that landfill in private hands and you've got a real winner for the county's taxpayers.
Currently, the Baker Place Road landfill property easily ranks as Columbia County's biggest liability, with taxpayers losing three ways:
- The facility is on part of a vacant, 215-acre tract that is exempt from property taxes because the county owns it;
- the landfill is closed, so it no longer brings in revenue; and,
- environmental regulations require the county to cap and monitor the property - which will cost an additional $10 million or so just to close the site permanently.
A far better opportunity might be looming, and county commissioners are giving it a serious look. A few weeks ago, Environmental Liability Transfer, a company from St. Louis, Mo., expressed interest not only in buying the entire site from the county, but in taking over the capping and monitoring duties.
The landfill site itself would be maintained as greenspace, while the remaining 139 acres would be used for residential and commercial development.
"It sounds almost too good to be true," County Commission Chairman Ron Cross says, and he's right; just the $10 million alone amounts to more than $46,000 per acre for the entire site. That's why county officials plan to study the proposal in detail before moving forward, and are offering the property for bids to measure interest from other potential private investors.
If the project unfolds as the county hopes, taxpayers will benefit from the revenue when the land sells, from taxes when the property goes back on the books, and in relief from future expenses if a private company assumes responsibility.
It sounds too good to be true. But if is true, by any measure it would be a win-win-win situation.
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