Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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March 16th, 2012

IDA And SCFC Offer Us A Level Playing Field

As I mentioned last week, the Center for Discovery (CFD) bond refinancing project actively brought the Sullivan County Funding Corporation (SCFC) to life. The Industrial Development Agency (IDA) could not have done this bonding because civic facility bonding ended for IDAs in 2008. IDAs can only bond industrial and commercial projects.

Local Development Corporations (LDC) such as the SCFC has authority to issue bonds for broader purposes including civic facilities such as CFD. The refinancing project saved CFD millions in interest. If not for SCFC the refinancing of IDA bonds would not have occurred.

Critics question why annual funds from the Millennium project are now in SCFC hands. My research finds the very purpose for which LDCs are organized is to run loan programs such as the Millennium, so it makes more sense to have it run by the LDC.
Both the IDA and SCFC have ultimate goals of economic development and job creation. Combined they can offer a broader range of benefits. Both can provide certain tax abatements to qualifying projects, although LDCs cannot provide real estate tax abatements.

One cynic of the IDA told me he felt board members were too lax and participated in favoritism. “They don’t even open their mouths at meetings. One or two people cannot be allowed to run the entire show. All transactions must be fully explained. We need to know who is being paid consulting fees.”

It appears the IDA is working with our new legislature towards better communication and full disclosure on projects.
Legislator Cindy Gieger an outspoken critic of the IDA told me the formation of the SCFC was not the problem, but accountability was. “We need to make sure they hold to the same requirements of transparency, disclosure, and ethics as others.”

Gieger said she has not been happy with the way the IDA has conducted business in the past. She pointed to a recent resolution regarding the Apollo Plaza that was tabled by the legislature. “We were the last to know and it cannot continue like this.”

Gieger, as many others have, question how the YMCA was offered property to construct a facility at the Apollo location. Personally, I cannot understand why it would even matter. The YMCA is one of the most reputable organizations, and if a site is not approved, thousands in grant dollars obtained by State Senator John Bonacic will be lost. So what if Tony Cellini is the Thompson Supervisor and his wife Linda works for the YMCA and Bonacic. A new YMCA will benefit all of Sullivan County and of course be a great place for “Village People” to go to and have a good time.

Legislator Ira Steingart who is chairman of the IDA, SCFC and the legislature’s Economic and Development Committee told me, “IDAs and LDCs are important tools in attracting economic development. They are often misunderstood. As Chairman I want to make sure the public has a better understanding of the process, the benefits and how hard the Boards work to bring development that is beneficial. Part of my responsibility is to keep my fellow Legislators informed and involved.”

The bottom line is if Sullivan County is going to effectively compete for new jobs and new investment we need to have an even playing field with a full tool box. I hope these columns helped to explain the misunderstood IDA and SCFC.

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