“Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.” This warning holds meaning for us in Henderson just as it did for the Trojans in ancient times.
The first gift we should have been wary of was the gift of the warehouse on Zene Street that was accepted by the Downtown Development Commission. This commission is not elected and for the most part is funded by the taxpayers in Henderson. Why the DCC would accept such a large property that harbored vagrants and piles of litter and possible environmental concerns remains to be answered, but in accepting the property, the problems passed to the city and at the same time property taxes evaporated. It did not appear that the DCC had a plan or purpose for the building and in fact apparently did not have the resources to maintain the building as they immediately asked the City Council for the money to insure the building.
The second gift we should be wary of is the gift of around $700,000 from the Golden Leaf Fund to incorporate this property into a Recreational, Educational and Family Center. While this property does not lie in City Council Ward 3, there was a meeting to discuss the “exciting opportunities for the Flint Hill Community and Beyond!”
The opportunity did not arise to say whether or not this facility is needed as taxpayers already pay for a recreation department, schools, community college, and libraries, and many support churches, but rather a list of possible uses was presented and the public was asked to prioritize the lists.
When asked who would own and maintain and insure the property down the road, no clear answers were available. Remember the taxpayers in Henderson are the main supporters of the DCC who are pushing this project. So after the $700,000 is used to renovate the old warehouse, who pays the bills after that? Where is the business plan?
We do not take care of the community owned properties that we now own so why should we suspect that this project will not fall into the same category. There is a real urgency to get a plan in place by March so we do not get left out of the Golden Leaf money. There has been ample time since 2006 to formulate a plan but here we are floundering at the last minute to meet deadlines. Could it be that a closer more deliberate look will prove the plans to be ill-advised? Or, did our community receive a grant of $25,000 to study this and now must show something for that money?
The proposed uses for the REEF center are grand and would contribute to the quality of life in Henderson, but these needs could be met using buildings downtown that are owned by the taxpayers for far longer than the Zene Street warehouse. The ABC store on William Street would make a great Laundromat location along with a playground at the side with an outdoor farmer’s market. The First National Bank Building would make a great train station with a deli. The old city hall that surrounds the historic fire station could become classrooms for art, dance, and music lessons and at night counseling centers. These are rehabilitation projects that may be more sustainable.
I am told that a year of Tuesday morning meetings were held upstairs at the Bank of America to seek a “New Direction” for Henderson. A new direction I would like to see is the best use of grant money that does not profit in any way anyone tied to elected office but is used to really address the needs of our neighborhoods. That would be new direction worth taking.