April 23, 2013: Our readers write

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On county government relocation

On April 19, a local physician penned a column in The News-Enterprise criticizing Hardin Fiscal Court’s decision to move forward with the planning, design and engineering for a new county government facility and expansion and renovations programmed for Hardin Memorial Health.

Among the exaggerations is the debt he claims the county recently incurred or will incur if these projects come to fruition.

The anticipated debt for the county’s new government center is $10 million, not the $20 million he asserts. There is no outstanding debt on the land. Hardin County government is currently at 10.4 percent of its statutory debt capacity, the lowest level in decades. Adding $10 million will put us at less than 20 percent of capacity.

Hardin Memorial Health is now debt free for the first time in more than 20 years. The debt for HMH’s programmed expansion and renovations is projected at $40 million not $50 million as indicated. Other expenditures cited were accomplished with existing funds, not new debt.  

He states over the last few months the county has taken on debt exceeding $100 million. It appears this physician has a tendency to double his numbers – we’ll come back to that thought.

Two decades ago, he had no problem with the county government taking on more than $20 million of debt to construct a new county-owned landfill. Why wasn’t he concerned then? Because he was the one selling the county the property for the landfill to be constructed on. For $2 million, he and his partner sold the county government land he purchased for the purpose of building a landfill for twice (double) the amount he paid for it three years earlier.

This same physician enabled the saddling of county government with excessive long-term debt (20-plus years) and a flawed business model for debt repayment that seriously failed halfway through the loan (bond) repayment period for the county’s landfill. Of course, his payment for land was received in full upfront; not to mention profits from timbering the land prior to closing the deal with the county.

It appears the mistake fiscal court made with these new projects was not utilizing land prescribed by the good doctor.

Harry L. Berry