September 26, 2007
IT RIGHT FOR GOVERNMENT TO COMPETE WITH PRIVATE BUSINESS?
the job of Better Home Town (BHT) to promote ALL businesses?
The same is asked of the Downtown Development Authority
(DDA)--is its purpose to help ALL businesses? Should BHT
and DDA put one or two businesses above the others in town?
At the August
City Council Meeting it was revealed that the Downtown Development
Authority and Better Home Town would be involved in helping
certain new businesses compete with established
businesses in town. From
the Monticello News, August 16, 2007:
Edwards provided a report on the revolving loan fund
review committee with regard to the Downtown Development
Authority’s (DDA) purchase of the former Step Back in Time
Building now known as The Red Clay Galleria & Cafe’.
The DDA has requested use of city’s RLF for $123,000 to
help purchase the building. Ms. Edwards said the project
is designed to create jobs for low to moderate income persons.
Two entrepreneurs were opening businesses at the location
immediately, she said. She requested that Steve Jordan
be appointed to the three-person (RLF) committee replacing
Don Kelly and joining Scott Smith and Susan Holmes.
The request was approved. Council members were informed
of an August 30 public hearing on the DDA matter.
of the TWG, I have personally talked with several people
and heard from many others about the “Red Clay Café”
and how it is being promoted by government agencies—the
DDA, BHT, and Economic Development Authority (EDA) as well
as the City of Monticello. The following is based
on my personal conversations and observations.
the August 16th article I called Mayor Pro Tem Russell Gross
and asked about “Government” getting involved in running
a business. He assured me this was not the case. The reason
the City became involved was because the City had funds
in the Revolving Loan Fund that would be lost if they weren’t
used. He said there would be spaces in the building and
they would be rented out to various vendors.
More and more
talk was prevalent about the Red Clay Café, who was
involved, if rent and utilities were being paid or not.
It appears as if most businesses that get service from the
City pay around $800-$1000 a month in utilities. They also
must pay either rent
or a note payment of approximately $1000 a month as well
as all the other expenses incurred to keep their business
have been seeing not only the Better Home Town director,
Sage Edwards, but also the Economic Development Director,
Tracy Travillo, in and out of the Red Clay Café continuously
during the day. Anyone calling the Red Clay Café
is connected to the BHT director who is answering the telephone
and promoting the restaurant.
I made a call
to Walker Jordan, Chairman/President/Head of the DDA on
9/6/07. We had a long talk. During our conversation I asked
many questions. As one who runs a private business, I told
him I was concerned with
the unfair competition of government with money from grants,
low interest loans, etc. competing with businesses that
have to earn the money to pay for receptionist, loans at
as much as 3 times the interest rate, and high utility bills.
Current businesses in the City are struggling
while a new business, the
Red Clay Café, is in a privileged position with heavy
promotion from at least four government agencies—BHT, DDA,
EDA, and the City itself.
I learned from Mr. Walker Jordan on 9/6/07:
1. The DDA
will get a 3% loan
from the Revolving Loan Fund (RLF)
2. The DDA will buy the building for $208,000—Ms
Edwards said $123,000 was coming from the RLF; where’s
the other $85,000 coming from? Grants?
3. The City will have a
lien on the property because they sponsor
4. DDA does not own the building yet and does not know
what kind of rent is being paid by the Red Clay Café.
5. Taxes on the building will be paid by DDA
6. DDA did a study of rents around the square and anyone
renting space in the building will be charged on a “fair
7. Utilities and taxes will be included in the rent charged.
8. DDA and BHT were not
the same thing.
with Mr. Jordan I read the 9/6/07 Monticello News and saw
the City Council agenda. On this agenda it had BHT/DDA
Report. This item on the agenda raised more
questions. I called Walker Jordan again on 9/7/07—following
are my questions and his answers:
1. Why was
the BHT and DDA mentioned together on the agenda if they
were not the same thing? Sage
Edwards is the director of both BHT and DDA.
2. Why is Sage Edwards answering the phone for Red Clay
Café when other businesses have to hire someone
to do that? Sage Edwards
is also paid for work at the Gallery and gets a stipend
from DDA to do so.
3. What is Tracy Travillo’s role in the Red Clay Café?
She was the director of
DDA but now it is Sage Edwards.
4. How much rent will be charged? (Remember rent includes
taxes, utilities, insurance, rent, etc.) Rent
will be $12-$14/ sq ft and utilities will be $2/sq ft.
5. Who is on the DDA? Walker
Jordan, Rod Myers, Daniel McMichael, Ray Lanier, and Jehan
El Jourbagy. They are appointed by the City Council.
What is most
disturbing about all this is the fact that Sage
Edwards is performing 3 jobs all during the same time period.
She is DDA director, BHT director, and works for the Gallery.
As DDA and BHT director she should be promoting ALL businesses.
That is not happening. One
business is being promoted, the one Ms. Edwards works for,
while drawing taxpayer funded checks to promote the City
and the Downtown area.
Even more disturbing
is the fact that the brochure
“Discover Monticello Jasper County, Georgia” was
handed out at “Team Jasper” at least 3 months ago. The
non-existent Red Clay Galleria & Café was featured
in this brochure while the Chinese Restaurant right next
door to BHT and the Red Clay Café wasn’t even listed.
See “Dining” pages in the brochure here: http://www.taxdogs.com/092607brochure.pdf
Not only was the Galleria & Café featured, but
in addition to having its name, address, and phone number
like all the other dining establishments, the Red Clay entity
also had detailed items as to what was available. Even more
telling was the fact that the
telephone number listed for the Red Clay Galleria &
Café is the same number as Better Home Town.
The brochure was paid for with taxpayer money (called Grants).
owner would love it if they didn’t have to pay their telephone
bill or pay for someone to be there to answer the phone.
What about copies, paper, faxes, etc.? Are these being provided
by BHT/DDA at taxpayer’s expense? It’s the same with all
the other perks of having
government there with an endless supply of money to help
one make money while others are struggling. This puts the
Red Clay Café in a privileged position over all other
eating establishments in town. It’s
not fair and it’s not right. In fact, having
taxpayers help by paying an employees salary just may be
A very long
“Letter to the Editor” was written concerning this situation
by a member of the Monticello Independent Merchants Association.
You can find it in the 9/20/07 edition of the Monticello
News or read it here: http://www.taxdogs.com/092607lettertoeditor.doc
brings other questionable activities of BHT to the forefront.
There appears to be concern that tourists and others that
visit the Market on the Square—run by Sage Edwards—are being
directed to the Red Clay Café without any mention
of other places to eat on or near the square.
TWG that the “letter to the editor” has gotten a few people
involved with DDA, BHT, EDA, and the City “upset.” The private
business owners have been upset for several months. It’s
time the “government” steps back from this situation and
quits competing with private enterprise. If
all these government agencies want to do something to help
ALL businesses, their number one concern should be to find
a way to LOWER THE UTILITY BILLS IN THE CITY.
on this article or to let your feelings be known email us
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