Letter: City is accountable to the taxpayers

The recent newspaper articles concerning a possible public/private partnership to develop the Aiken hospital property is of particular concern to me as a citizen of Aiken. I know that City Council and the city fathers are eager to have this real estate matter resolved and the property to re-enter the tax rolls that will benefit all taxpayers.

I do not feel that a public/private partnership is advisable with this developer or any developer whatsoever. The development plan is at best nebulous and has changed many times. The assumptions so far as occupancy taxes, sales taxes, real estate tax revenue and so forth are a mere guessing game. If the project is deemed financially successful by the developer, let the developer proceed with his resources on the line.

If you want an easy lesson in the performance of public/private partnerships simply call Richland County (Columbia) and see how theirs are working. The City of Aiken does not need to be in the real estate business. Their track record is quite dismal i.e. the Laurens Street/Hayne Avenue building, the old Brinkley property on Newberry Street etc.

I also call on the city fathers to release the complete financials on the new Public Safety building, which was accomplished with a private developer from Augusta. Were there any competition bids?

These dealings need to be completely transparent for all the citizens to examine. I also recently learned the old Palmetto Federal building on Richland Avenue has been purchased by a private developer for the sum of $1,675,000. If the City of Aiken has designs to move the functions of the existing municipal building to this site, and the purchasing developer is to be involved, the entire construction project needs to be put out for competing bids to ensure the best financial package for the taxpayers of Aiken.

One-stop, one-developer, one-bid projects done for the convenience of the bureaucrats does not ensure the best outcome for the City of Aiken.

Let us all remember the money belongs to the taxpayers not the government. There are many capable developers and business entities in our area. Again, a full dose of transparency is , or should be, the rule of the day.

S. Taylor Garnett, Aiken