How much is cleanup effort really worth?
Cleaning up the All American Inn and Glenrock Motel properties in the middle of town are, appropriately enough, high on the list of priorities for the Glenrock Town Council. Owner Jan Charles Gray has, for too long, ignored the blight these properties have imposed on the town, and his willingness to make to the town sue him to do anything about them only makes the situation that much more frustrating for everyone.
So, it’s a good thing that Glenrock is looking to clean it up, but how much of the real estate game is really up to the town to control? And at what point does the cost to taxpayers no longer make sense? Let’s take those two questions separately.
The Commerce Block was a great project, but now the town is a landlord for several businesses. And they saved the Lincoln Building when the Paleon was having problems keeping it going, but that building is in dire need of repair. Either of those acts by themselves is very admirable. But together, they mean the town is a landlord for two of the biggest buildings in the downtown.
Then, don’t forget that the town also owns buildings being rented by two other businesses: McGinley Orthopedics manufacturing on Birch Street and A-Square firearms on US 20/26. Once again, both of these projects on their own are good for Glenrock because they allow for economic development and jobs. But when looking at the big picture, it shows a trend for the town to buy up properties like a land baron. So, it begs the question, how much should the local government be doing in the free market place of real estate? So far the projects seem to be positive, but what happens when they run out of such endeavors? Are they still going to gobble up defunct properties and try to flip them?
We are happy to see what’s been done so far, and are pleased about the potential clean-up of the Gray properties. But becoming the town’s savior in the commercial real estate market is a slippery slope. When any governmental agency meddles deeply into free market systems, it can have dramatic and unintended consequences.
Now to the second question: How much should the taxpayer have to foot to clean up private properties. In the latest motel cases, the cost could hit $500,000, with no one knowing for sure how much the town can recoup later on, if anything. That is taxpayer money coming from the town’s reserve account within the general fund. It may be a good use of our savings, but it is ultimately real estate speculation that may or may not pay dividends.
At some point, we are all going to have to sink or swim without tax dollars to keep things clean and shiny. What then?