Sunday, December 4, 2011

CITY HALL HEIST? Gerrymander proponents want big bucks for park land

From Ward reapportionment to $22,000 an acre, developers push ethical limits

COLUMBIA, 12/4/11  (Beat Byte) --  Just weeks after they voted for a so-called "gerrymandering plan" known as Trial D, two members of Columbia's recently-concluded Ward Reapportionment Committee want the Columbia City Council to fork over big taxpayer dollars for vacant land near the new Battle High School. 
 
Bob Pugh (left), Scott Atkins, and  their St. Charles Road Development (SCRD) partnership with Scott's father Tom Atkins, builder Rob Wolverton, and the estate of developer Bob Lemone want city taxpayers to pay $681,000 for 30 acres -- a whopping $22,000 per acre the Boone County assessor has appraised at just $521/acre.  
 
By comparison, all 47 social services agencies in Columbia would get just $979,000 under a proposal Council members will consider Monday night. 
 
The land would be banked for future use because the city has no money to develop it, Columbia park services manager Mike Griggs told Columbia Daily Tribune readers agitated over the proposed acquisition.  The sale would mark the third time in roughly three years the Pugh-Atkins-Wolverton-Lemone partnership has sold ultra-pricey land to a public entity. 
 
Shades of ethical gray
 
Scott Atkins
With the pending land sale -- which Council members will also take up this Monday -- Mr. Pugh, Mr. Atkins, and the City Council step into an ethical gray area.  
 
Mr. Pugh -- a former Columbia Mayor and CEO of MBS Books -- chaired the Ward Reapportionment Committee (WRC) and voted for Trials E and D, the most notorious of two so-called "gerrymandering plans."   Mr. Atkins also voted for Trial D, and used his considerable influence to sway 4th Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley into a political minefield that exploded across the community with a highly-charged recall effort over Mr. Dudley's support for Trial D.     
 
Had the Mayor, Council members, and the public known that Mr. Pugh and Mr. Atkins would turn around just weeks after their Ward reapportionment votes with a big bucks deal for City Hall, would they have been appointed to such a powerful committee?    Why didn't Mr. Pugh and Mr. Atkins fully disclose what was coming?   Why didn't they recuse themselves from membership on this committee, or at least from voting on any reapportionment plans? 
 
More importantly, should people with such significant, pending, and personally-enriching business before the Council ever be put in a position to affect its make up?   
 
Rob Wolverton
Particularly galling given this turn of events:  Mr. Pugh openly discounted public opinion about Ward reapportionment, while telling this writer to stop "picking on him" because he was a mere "has been" in the world of politics and business.   He made this dubious statement as WRC chairperson, in what now seems an attempt to tamp down transparency about a business deal then just weeks away from City Council deliberation.
 
Third Time at The Trough
 
In 2008 and again in Sept. 2011, Columbia Public Schools agreed to pay the SCRD partners $2.4 million for land in the same area:  32 acres for a new elementary school at roughly $50,000/acre; and 79 acres for Battle High at roughly $11,000/acre.
 
The $900,000 Battle High land purchase also saddled the school district with millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements that were neither budgeted nor expected.  "We’re spending $2.9 million that we never intended to spend," Chief Financial Officer Linda Quinley said at the time.  "Hopefully we can learn from this and not make these mistakes again," then-School Board member Ines Segert added. 
 
Even more disturbing given the school district's involvement:  the St. Charles Road group pays only a few hundred dollars in property taxes.   Between city and school district, the partners will have pocketed about $3.1 million on land the assessor has appraised for under $100,000.  Property taxes are the #1 local source of school district revenue, and also provide revenues for city services. 
 
Fictitious names only, please  
 
"Damn.  Must be gold in them thar hills," wrote Trib reader Vanessa Hall.  "St. Charles Road Development LLC must be pleased with the amount per acre.  Just exactly who is it that makes up St. Charles Road Development LLC?   I sure would like to know if the names are publicly recognizable." 
 
Hall asked that question because the Tribune refers to the prominent group only by its fictitious business name, further reducing transparency. 
Tom Atkins

 
Responding to reader concerns about the whopping price tag, Mike Griggs wrote "park staff agreed with the purchase price of $681,280," based on two appraisals.   Pugh, Atkins and partners "own the entire tract between Lake of the Woods Golf Course and Battle High," he explained, where they are planning "a mixed use development of single and multi-family residences, commercial and office space." 
 
Budgets are apparently tight enough that "there currently are no funds to develop the park," Griggs wrote.  "This acquisition could simply be seen as 'land banking' for future use." 
 
 

10 comments:

  1. Bless you, Mike Martin...XO.

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  2. A few thoughts on the robbing of the Boone County resident (that includes but is not exclusive to Columbia residency).

    The school board that acts as though it was completely duped by its lack of knowledge of the additional monies that would be needed for infrastructure to the new Battle High School area has to be lying.

    There is no other way that this bunch could pass this huge tax liability along to taxpayers after the flap that ensued the "giving of land" by Turner Vemer to the district of his 40 acres.

    It became public knowledge quickly, how much would be needed for infrastructure to that location.

    Was the school district (its board and officials) so stupid as to not expect the same types of things would be needed at the new location? Not likely.

    This entity was just bought off by the same group that is currently raking in millions, public expense be damned.

    As for the "sale" of the park land at $22,000 an acre: Who would expect anything else from the local cabal of developers?

    This was all planned and likely in the works on the back room tables when the Pugh group arranged the cheap price for the Battle High plot.

    It is for sure that the Tribune's pasting of fictitious names would be for the express purpose of "protecting" Hank's frienz.

    This bunch has one thing in mind: the draining of the public coffers into their (private) pockets as quickly as possible.

    Finally, our esteemed assessor, Tommy boy, is in the pocket of so many people that it is hard to imagine his functioning as a human being.

    We-da-people are too abused, misguided and ignorant to ever put him out of office (as proved in his last "appointment") so we just bend over.

    And, last, but certainly NOT least, Mike, thank you for these e-newspapers to keep us lesser people informed what is being done to us now.

    Without your input there is NO journalism in Boone County that tells it like it is.

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  3. I enjoy reading your commentaries. You do a good job and as a Columbia resident, I appreciate your voice.

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  4. Silly citizens don't you get it?

    Just look at all of the names listed below in this piece by Mike Martin.

    Which first name below is mentioned the most? Look closely.

    Now when I was posting on the Missourian and the Tribune myself and one other friend of mine were always stating openly that the City of Columbia Parks and Recreation along with City Hall were and always are catering to............you guessed it "Bob The Builder"!

    BOB Lemone. BOB Pugh. BOB (Rob) Wolverton.

    I think Mike Martin just proved not only my point but the point of my cohort in posting our points we still try to bring before the citizens of this community to little or no avail.

    Wake up Columbia!!

    When is Columbia going to wake up to the fact that sections of your own City of Columbia Management Personnel Team and some of those you elect to City Council are only in cahoots to rip off you the tax paying citizens and keep "Bob The Builder and Developer" in business?

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  5. GRRRRRR…I knew Dudley was a wrong un. Please, Mike, keep bearing down.=

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  6. Thanks for what you doing, Mike.

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  7. Council voted unanimously for this after spending about two minutes on it. So much for Barb Hoppe, Fred Schmidt, and Helen Anthony not being in developer's pockets! They talk a good game, but if you look closely at their records, rarely deliver.

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  8. Bob the Builder and Developer won again. Sickening.

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  9. I will buy everyone's home for their assessed value. All you have to do is post your phone number and address and I'll contact you. The reason? As stated on the Boone County Assessor's website:

    "Once the estimate of market value has been determined, the assessor calculates a percentage of that value to arrive at assessed value. The percentage is based on the classification, determined by the type of property or how it is used. The percentages are:"

    "Real Estate Residential 19%"
    "Agricultural 12%"
    "Commercial & All Other 32%"

    "As an example, a residence with a market value of $50,000 would be assessed at 19%, which would place its assessed value at $9,500."

    So, I will glady buy your home's at 19% of market value.

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  10. What there doing is making it look like the Seller is getting all the Money. When in Fact I'm sure it's being Divided Among The City's Leaders ( City Council Members) And any of Corrupted City A Fiscals, An with Pugh-Atkins-Wolverton-Lemone getting 1/3 if All in Same as One. Goggle City of Bell California Scandal

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