Today is Friday, September 19, 2014

Does it make good sense to chase park away before all facts are in?

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By SAM HATCHER           Imagine this.

There are three curtains on stage and you get to pick only one in order to receive the merchandise behind it.

You have the advantage of knowing today what’s behind two of the curtains. Behind the first curtain is a state-of-the-arc vacuum cleaner and behind the second is a top-of-the-line dishwasher.

However, you don’t know today what’s behind the third curtain but you do know that it has the possibility of being worth millions of dollars.

Best of all it doesn’t cost a penny to play the game.

You’re instructed that you have the option of taking what’s behind curtain number one or curtain number two today but if you wish you can wait 60 days and have your choice of the possible million-dollar gift.

What would you do?

 I think I’d wait the 60 days to see if the million dollars is going to show up. If it doesn’t, I’m not out anything because I still have the option of picking either curtain number one or curtain number two. And as I said earlier, it doesn’t cost anything to play.

So, is this not sort of where local government is with respect to the proposed Bible theme park?

The Lebanon City Council voted this week on first reading to remove its support from the proposed theme park (the ordinance requires two readings to become law) and the Wilson County Commission is faced with a similar vote in just a few days.

But why?

There seems to be considerable concern on the part of local government about the validity of the company proposing the park. There are a number of questions about the company’s financial credibility and apparently there are a number of issues relating to what the company has purported and what it has refused to disclose.

But what the members of both of these governmental bodies know or should know is this:•        Neither the county nor the City of Lebanon can be held financially liable for bonds issued for the construction of the theme park, according to attorneys who represent both government entities. One hundred percent of all monies used to purchase bonds for the theme park will come from private investors and they will be non-recourse bonds, meaning no governmental backing or no governmental liability.  •        Bonds for the theme park will not be issued until all questions related to financing including how the bonds are to be repaid are answered. The Industrial Bond Board will do this as well as those who sell and buy the bonds. •        And the answers to these and other important questions will come when the developers of the theme park appear before the Industrial Bond Board for the authorization of bonds to be issued. 

Maybe the skeptics and cynics are right.

Maybe the whole Bible theme park deal is a scam.

But what if it’s not?

What if it’s for real? What if the financial backing is there and the developers proposing the park are credible?

Do we just push them away and turn the lights off because we’ve got a strong hunch that what they’re telling us is not the truth?

In today’s world of rising unemployment rates and a struggling economy, this doesn’t seem like a prudent way for local government to react if it truly has its constituents in mind.

The same government officials who are voting the Bible Park out of town before its hearing before the Industrial Bond Board are the same ones who will have to answer to those who live here if the theme park goes to another venue and reaps much success.

Perhaps it would be best to not move so quickly, after all there’s no financial penalty looming overhead.

Today there are lots of folks in Wilson County out of work, with no food on the table, and being financially challenged to make rent payments, mortgage payments and keep their utilities turned on.

If for no other reason, maybe we should take a second, third and fourth look if necessary at the Bible theme park, just for the sake of these people.

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