Lead or get out of the way: Exit 96 discussion shows again why change needed in Waynesboro

waynesboro2editsWaynesboro leaders voted four years ago to pay $3.475 million for what is now 177 acres of scrub brush located off Exit 96. And it will remain scrub brush if Waynesboro City Council member Frank Lucente gets his way.

“I’m very cautious spending money for something that may not prove profitable,” Lucente said last week, according to the News Virginian, in the context of a discussion by City Council regarding an application for funding from the Virginia Department of Transportation that would help the city pay for an access road to the scrub brush.

Which, of course, would no longer be scrub brush, once the access road was there, and opened up the property for development, industrial and commercial, primarily.

The access road will cost an estimated $5.2 million. If VDOT agrees to participate in the access-road project, the city and state would each put in $2.6 million toward the final cost.

There would be additional costs, approximately $4.2 million, associated with the project for additional infrastructure.

The City Council vote to approve the application to VDOT was 4-1.

“This is a lot of money, but of the overall project, this is just the beginning,” Lucente said in dissent.

This is the same Lucente who was not only on board with the decision in 2011 to purchase the property, but actually was a key player in the negotiations with the former owner, Roger Willetts, a political supporter and campaign donor.

To the point where Lucente told the News Virginian in 2012 that he “saved the city half a million dollars” through his work on behalf of the city on the land deal.

A quick point on saving the city half a million dollars: that’s only true if the city gets anything of value from owning this scrub brush at some point in the next hundred years.

Because right now, the city owns $3.475 million of nothing if the property isn’t opened up for development.

It is beyond the realm of reason to have to consider that the City Council voted to authorize the purchase of the Exit 96 property four years ago without having accepted that it was going to cost millions more to turn that purchase into something that would add actual value.

It is also hard to accept that the voters of this city continue to entrust their tax dollars to people who don’t have the ability to think beyond what they’re going to have for dinner tonight.

Those people clearly have no desire to lead. It’s time that we get them out of the way to get Waynesboro moving forward.

– Column by Chris Graham

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