Patti Matheney of GhentCANN dropped a bombshell at this morning's public hearing about the Ginsberg Payment in Lieu of Tax (PILOT) plan.
County officials have repeatedly left the impression that the 33 acres being sold to Ginsberg's Foods for $- was “inherited” by the county. As a result, press reports (such as an editorial questioning the deal in the Register-Star) dutifully repeated this language, giving the sense that there hadn't been much if any cost associated with the land acquisition.
But public records obtained by Matheney, Christine Jones and close neighbors of the proposed facility tell a very different story.
In fact, the County’s development arm paid $109,950 in 1997 to acquire the acreage from the Ribley estate.
Confronted with this evidence, as well as the presence of a surviving Ribley family member, County economic czar Ken Flood claimed that he had always known that the Columbia Economic Development Corporation had paid that price. If others had reported differently, he argued, they must have misquoted him.
But nowhere in minutes of the CEDC’s recent meetings, nor in published reports, does the $110,000 number crop up. Indeed, given the heat that Flood and the agency has taken for the $1 sale, the County has had every reason to fudge its descriptions of the acquisition.
The Register-Star stated on August 2nd that the land had been “inherited.” If Flood or anyone else in County government objected to that description, it doesn’t appear they bothered to ask the paper for a correction, because the Register used the same word again on August 26. Meanwhile, Hudson 1st Ward Supervisor Sarah Sterling stated at the public hearing that though she was on the CEDC board, had attended all of its recent meetings, and actually voted for the land transfer, she had never heard about the $110,000 price tag.
Muddy language like “inherited” has misled people into assuming that no cash was involved in the original purchase, making the $1 sale seem less outrageous. The Ribley’s spokesperson politely but firmly described the County’s prior statements as “falsehoods.”
Ghent resident Jeff Snider, quipped that he’d be willing to buy the land instead for $100.