Farm isn’t best site for new Plant Board headquarters

Fred W. Burch III Published:

What I am about to share probably won’t affect me much one way or the other. I’m just tired of seeing the taxpayers accepting everything they are told without ever questioning anything.

I have no quarrel with any of the Frankfort Plant Board members. I admire them for the hard work they do for this community. I assure you my comments are not personal. I just don’t agree with them on this issue.

You have all heard about the city giving the FPB a 30-acre tract on the Carpenter Farm for $1. What you haven’t heard is that when FPB accepts that 30 acres, the city takes back the FPB Service Center on Hickory Drive. The Franklin County PVA office appraised that property and its entire infrastructure for $6 million. Let me say that another way. They are getting 30 hilly undeveloped acres for $1. That’ s a good deal but they are giving up the Service Center property valued at $6 million. That’s a bad deal.

I can identify with the FPB to a small extent because I served on the Municipal Sewer Board for 12 years at a time when we built the sewage treatment plant from inception to completion. We did that with 75 percent federal grant money and by charging all the state agencies the same rates you and I pay. When I left the sewer board about 1982, the average sewer bill was $2.50 a month.

The FPB’s challenge is to bring all its services to all its customers at the lowest possible rates, keeping in mind that they must be fiscally responsible, that they are a nonprofit, public utility, not privately owned.

I know there is a major expense coming up in the repairs to the city reservoir. I have heard upwards of $6 million. There is a major project going on with all the green pipes I have seen all over town. I don’t know the cost but it has to be considerable. It costs a lot of money just for day-to-day operations such as downed power lines, broken water mains and all those emergencies they have to deal with as well as overall office management. At this time, I don’t think there is a great money reserve the FPB has stashed away. The only reserve they have is you, and that is in higher utility rates.

Why would they move to a totally undeveloped location that is going to cost you more than $20 million and give up another $6 million (the Service Center) to the city to build a 150,000-square-foot complex with 50,000 square feet of office space? They can stay where they are, purchase the adjoining eight acres and two buildings totaling 63,000 square feet (not 20,000 as earlier reported) which with their current buildings give them close to the 150,000 square feet including the 50,000 feet of all-new office space, the 28 acres they need on one campus with all the infrastructure already in place.

This is in a low-traffic area next to the East Frankfort Park, with plenty of parking for employees and the public, for a change, with a proposed railroad spur on the property, all at a quarter of the cost.

Yes, I own the adjoining property, but that isn’t the issue. They need that property and I happen to be the one who owns it. Including buying the adjoining property and doing all the renovations they would need for the entire campus, their costs should not run more than $6 million total to give them everything they would have at the new location.

One objection the FPB has its against having to go through a “residential area,” Myrtle Avenue. I have shown two alternate routes that don’t pass any houses and exit onto Martin Luther King Boulevard. Myrtle Avenue, however, has been used for more than 50 years and I have never heard any complaints.

I urged them at their meeting not to let this be another “Dunkin Donuts” situation, referring to the now-fired General Manager Jim Smith for contracting, without the required competitive bid procedures, for coffee service at exorbitant cost.

I have also offered to finance my share of the purchase.

Fred W. Burch III, a Frankfort native, was with Burch’s Meter Appliance and TV Center for many years. The property he seeks to sell the Plant Board is the former Genesco shoe factory building.

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  • Good idea, Mr. Burch. I hope you are successful.