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Can you afford your share of a $39M guarantee for Foxhall?

As I write, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners is getting ready to vote on “an inducement resolution signaling their interest in the [Foxhall Resort and Sporting Club] project.” Even if this wasn’t a time of continuing struggle it would be a bad choice to back such a risky private project given the developer’s track record. But now, as you’ll see in the video, it’s just plain foolish.

It’s a potentially lovely development for rich folk. I have no problem with that, and I’ve no problem with the developer, W. Harrison Merrill, doing it with his own money or at least his own credit. But that seems to be the problem. Merrill, based on Internet stories discoverable in recent months, has about a 50/50 track record. He’s been around for decades so his actual track record could be better or worse. He’s left folks holding the bag on more than one occasion. Maybe getting credit is the issue forcing him to come to a county full of foreclosures and mostly average-income folk and ask its leadership to put up taxpayer money as collateral.

The Executive Director of the Development Authority, Chris Pumphrey, sings the praises of the Foxhall development. I’m told Chris has to, on average, work a lead for a year and a half before anything comes of it. I know the Foxhall thing has been kicking around for years, but as bad as he might want something to get done, this is not a good project for the county to “invest” in.

For our $39 million we get a conference center, and all the headache that comes with it. We don’t need a conference center. The City of Douglasville just built a huge one and has space in its former conference facility. Last I heard it was not leased up. I also know of two private facilities that lost business to the government-funded conference center. One went into foreclosure and I believe the other simply sold. We don’t need another conference center. Or another golf course – they’re supposed to be building one of those, too, at Foxhall. Sigh…

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