Taxpayers Nailed for Millions in Government Waste
by Lewis Loflin
Update Summer 2002: With Virginia in a so-called "budget crisis" and with funding to local schools being cut, that didn't stop our wasteful public officials from wasting another $1.9 million on useless projects. Scott County for example is running a $470,000 shortfall on their school budget in 2002 due to state funding cuts yet will get "transportation funds" totaling $241,000 not to fix or pave our crumbling roads but hiking trails, monuments, etc. Smith County is running a $300,000 education shortfall and last year got $250,000 for hiking trails. This doesn't include $20 million spent to bring passenger rail service to Bristol knowing AMTRAK is broke and there is no demand for passenger rail service at all.
Please note that as of February 2008 the project is still not complete and they are seeking more taxpayer dollars. For a related issue on the waste of transportation funding see Stop the Mendota Trail.
This list of projects was published in the Kingsport Times-News June 20, 2002.
BRISTOL, Va. - Projects that will provide pedestrian access over and around major roads and landmarks in Southwest Virginia were given financial backing Thursday by the Commonwealth Transportation Board.
According to a press release from the Virginia Department of Transportation, 23 projects located within the Bristol Transportation District received $1.9 million in grants administered by VDOT from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The funds come from the Transportation Enhancement Program, created by Congress in 1991 to ensure that a small share of federal funds are invested to help enhance communities, the natural environment, and historic preservation.
Two projects in Scott County will receive a portion of the funding within the 2002-2003 fiscal year.
One project is based in Nickelsville. A $175,000 grant will be used to construct a pedestrian bridge that will extend over Route 71 from Keith Memorial Park to Nickelsville Elementary School.
Gate City also received funding Thursday, as $66,000 was allocated to replace and upgrade sidewalks and retaining walls on Park Street.
Two Wise County projects also received grants. Big Stone Gap received $107,000 to complete a walking trail that surrounds the town, and Pound was awarded $50,000 for the construction of a river walk in the town limits.
Projects in Lee County were also included in the allocation. Construction of the Thomas Walker Pedestrian Trail will be aided with a $31,000 grant, while Pennington Gap will use its $135,000 to construct a pedestrian trail.
Bristol, Va., was also included in the grant distributions, as its restoration project of the Bristol Train Station received $300,000.
Abingdon will be the recipient of three grants: $50,000 grants will go to replace bridge and trestle decking and safety railing along the Virginia Creeper Trail and to develop a community park and preserve a historic site for the Friends of Whitetop Station organization.
The third grant, $75,000, will aid efforts already under way at the recently renovated Abingdon Train Station. The project will help establish a historical and genealogical library and office and dedicate space for the future Trans Dominion Express.
Other projects included in the allocation are:
$75,000 for construction of a pedestrian bridge over Route 63 and hiking, biking and horse riding trails in Dickenson County.
$100,000 for renovation efforts at the historic Chase House in downtown Clintwood.
$50,000 for construction of a trail bridge over Beaver Dam Creek in Damascus.
$100,000 for street realignment, landscaping, parking, lighting and trail construction in Glade Spring.
$50,000 for completion of a welcome center complex modeled after the Blackford Spur railroad trestle for Honaker.
Waste for 2001
Southwest Virginia has the state's highest poverty rates, lowest wage scales, and is ranked at the bottom in the nation in educational attainment. Yet the state and federal government have pumped billions into this region with nothing to show for it. A press release in the Bristol Herald Courier (6/30/01) shows why this region is still racked with poverty. The region just got a $2 million federal transportation grant. Every penny will go into needless pork-barrel projects such as these:
The Bristol Trainstation Foundation has received a $500,000 federal transportation grant to assist in the refurbishing of historic Union Depot.
An old railroad car? A school memorial? What the Hell does any of this have to with transportation? Many of the roads in Washington County, Virginia are not paved or are in need of repair but we will waste $45,000 on an abandoned railroad bed in Damascus?
Yet they call this a "Transportation Efficiency Act grant," according to Ron Flanary, executive director of the Lenowisco Planning District. The article goes on:
The Bristol train station grant, when added to the $400,000 the foundation already has raised this year, puts the effort closer to the $1 million goal that officials previously said was needed before renovations could begin. "This is the most significant money we've received to date. This really energizes the whole campaign," said Trainstation Foundation fund-raising Chairman Jeff Byrd.
More Waste for 2008
Tobacco commission porks-out $14 million for regional economic development
The Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission approved more than $14 million in pork-barrel waste under the guise of "economic development" according to state Sen. William Wampler, R-Bristol. The commission met at Mountain Empire Community College, which like community colleges across the region, suffered a 5% budget cut because of shortfalls in Richmond. Among the idiotic projects they approved:
Another $6.1 million of a total $17 million to develop the so-called Southwest Virginia Artisan Center in Abingdon to be housed at Virginia Highlands Community College, whose academic programs also suffered budget cuts in 2007. Abingdon, about 14 miles from Bristol, is the wealthiest community in Southwest Virginia. Some studies they won't produce claim the 29,000-square-foot center "could attract" tourists. "It will house gallery space, retail areas and offices for The Crooked Road and the Round the Mountain artist organization." These organizations have so far produced nothing. In other words it's an expensive taxpayer funded crafts shop that has nothing to do with tobacco farmers getting new jobs.
My favorite part is, "create 202 jobs during the construction phase." But how about after the construction phase? The Scott County Economic Development Authority garnered $4.3 million to build the $7.2 Duffield Regional Technology Center that "has the potential to create 125 to 150 jobs." After years of these promises it's about time they deliver. Again it's more research into using coal for energy uses, which it already does. Duh. The Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center got $400,000 to develop an energy research and development program. Ref. BHC Oct 26, 2007
`Round the Mountain Celebrates One-Year Anniversary
2007-11-19 Kingsport Times-News extract.
ABINGDON, Va. - November 8, 2007 - In its first year, `Round the Mountain: Southwest Virginia's Artisan Network, an organization of artisans, agritourism and craft-related businesses, has grown to more than 200 members...`Round the Mountain was created in 2004, as a result of funding from Governor Mark Warner's Virginia Works Initiative and $100,000 in Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) funds...
For a $20-$40 annual membership fee, members are listed on the `Round the Mountain website - www.roundthemountain.org - in a web-based registry that is a searchable directory of artisans, galleries, studios, craft shops, farms, craft resources and craft events in the 19-county RTM region. Plus, each member who chooses to participate is featured on an individual profile page where they can include their contact information, hours of operation, a description of their work, their studio or farm, a photo, and other locations where their goods can be purchased or seen. Members can also be included in the rotating "Featured Member" feature on the `Round the Mountain website homepage...
Why is this is worth over $17 million of our tax dollars? For more information visit www.roundthemountain.org and ask them.