Vidalia should move past project

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The City of Vidalia’s leadership apparently doesn’t know when to give up on what clearly is a doomed, ill-conceived public project.

City leaders, in particular Mayor Hyram Copeland, have painted the “Square on Carter” project as essential for the future of the city.

Copeland has said on a number of occasions that the project is pivotal. Either the city grows through the project’s promises of future development or the city will whither away.

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But the truth is the plan isn’t nearly as dire, or important, to anyone but potentially some developers, consultants and the city’s administration.

Vidalia leaders have voted to borrow $7 million to purchase approximately 65 acres and develop the site’s infrastructure with the hope of reselling the property to would-be developers — none of which apparently have the wherewithal to take on the project in its entirety.

To borrow the money, the city had to get permission from the Louisiana State Bond Commission.

Commission members were skeptical at best of the proposal when presented last month, suspicious at worst.

Commissioners rightly suggested the proposal as presented was land speculation with public money serving as the back-up repayment plan if the development goes awry.

The bond commission sought clarification from the Attorney General’s office on the matter to make sure the proposal was even legally feasible. The AG’s office has suggested it isn’t.

But the city doesn’t seem content with that answer.

Instead of spending more publicly funded time and effort on a speculative plan to grow and develop the city by land acquisition, the city would be wise to shelve the plan and focus instead on improving city services, quality of life for residents and more carefully spending the public’s money.