I'm writing to look at this PILOT situation that everyone is so confused over. I look at it as a citizen of Sikeston, being on the City Council for five years and also being a businessman myself. Looking at it from all three positions, I think I can comment on this subject.
I've been involved with these meetings since they've started. In 2001, I was mayor when we started the negotiations with the BMU to decide how we could obtain some funds from the BMU to help improve the City of Sikeston. As time went on, one meeting after another, we went through all these motions and presented to the BMU a list of recommendations we had received.
We asked for them to respond in six weeks with any information they had as proof that we were doing the wrong thing. We never received them.
There's a lot of folks commenting on these issues today that haven't been to any of the meetings. They're just commenting from a citizen's point of view and haven't been on both sides of the fence.
As to what the money from this PILOT will be used for, it's going to be for the betterment of the whole community. In the past five years I've been on the Council, we've made several major improvements to the city.
This is not because I'm on there, but because a group of people took the wishes and demands of the people and made a reality out of it.
We've spent a lot of money on the street program, including the extension of Salcedo Road from 61 to Ingram. We've rebuilt Ingram to HH Highway.
We've built a new fire station on the west side of town. The people from the west side of the railroad demanded it, and rightly so. We needed it. But it's not cheap. The fire station cost approximately $1 million, and we put a new fire truck in that station at a cost of around $600,000.
As a result, though, we've got a good chance of having Sikeston's insurance rating dramatically improved. That will save everyone in Sikeston money on their insurance premiums.
We also put in a community building at the Complex. We've made several improvements to the Complex itself with new lighting and new restroom facilities. Once again, people demanded it and we needed it. A group of women took me out there to see the women's restroom and they were right. It was a disgrace.
The money has been spent wisely and for things the public wanted. That's true, especially for the Public Safety Department and the Fire Department. People demanded that we upgrade our Public Safety Department, and we have. We've done that and we've had some good results from it.
But all this takes money. The Public Safety alone, with the new hires and the things we had to do to upgrade our Public Safety Department, is around $400,000 a year more than we were spending two years ago. That's just to maintain it and to keep it up with the equipment they need to do their jobs right.
I saw one item in the paper that said BMU is funding the LCRA (Land Clearance for Redevelopment Act). They are not funding the LCRA. They offered $50,000 to get it started, but that's just a drop in the bucket of what it takes to do it.
We need money to buy, and then tear down, dozens of abandoned buildings that right now are being used by drug dealers. We need for that scum to leave our city. BMU's not funding that.
The BMU does contribute to the Department of Economic Development and we appreciate that. But also they reap the benefits of that. When the department brings development in, they get it back in electrical rates.
We appreciate the BMU and we know what they do for the City of Sikeston. They furnish street lighting. They do furnish power for community buildings. We appreciate all that, but we need more money to operate this city and I think we have one of the greatest assets a city could have.
We also have three opinions from prominent lawyers and they say this is possible to do. This is not from people on the street talking who know nothing more than what they've heard.
Other people say we can't do it and they warn of terrible consequences if we even try to find out.
But you know, we haven't heard from the people with the most to lose. If bad things happen like these people say, a bond insurance company in New York will lose $220 million. Why haven't they said a thing?
I think they're not here because they're not worried, and they're not worried because they've read the contracts. They know the sky is not going to fall and that these predictions are only meant to scare people.
If the people of Sikeston approve it on the ballot, we can get it before the judge and find out.
If we use this PILOT, and even if we have to pass along a 3 percent rate increase to Sikeston residents and businesses (and I don't think we'll have to), we'll raise $4 in revenues for every $1 paid by the citizens of Sikeston. That's a good deal for the people here who took the risk of building the plant in the first place.
If we don't, we'll either have to raise taxes or we'll have to cut services. If we raise taxes, Sikeston people will have to pay out a dollar for every dollar raised. That's not such a good deal for the people who took the risk of building the plant, and it's why I'm supporting the PILOT.