Saturday, February 4, 2012

Update...$100 million per year, FOREVER

Update If you are driving in Fairfax or Loudoun and see the signs popping up asking for lower tolls and more state money, this is astroturfing. It is done by big organizations like unions or even possibly MWAA operating through unions, trying to look like grassroots activism. They are promoting a taxpayer funded bailout to pay for the Metro/Dulles Corridor business stimulus. As usual, they think the fix is more gov’t spending to support a project that cannot support itself. Move over Solyndra.

There are some Rail to Dulles cost numbers flying around that are really quite shocking. A recent Purcellville Gazette ad said Loudoun County would pay $100 million per year, FOREVER. Could this possibly be true? Yes it can, it is, and you can see the numbers here.

Does Loudoun County really have that kind of money on hand and ready to spend on this project? Let’s step back and take a look at how little is really known about this rail project.

$100 million per year, forever is an estimate based on the best cost information available, and it is a conservative estimate. No doubt it will be refuted, but if you hear someone question the accuracy, ask for a better estimate of the cost and ask where it came from and please share it with me. Cross my heart and hope to die, there are no real cost summaries out there, because rail's promoters know that if there were, this project would be deader than a proverbial doornail, period.

There is a drama going on of epic proportions, and few people in Loudoun even know about it, or care. Hopefully that will be changing in the weeks ahead. In just a few weeks, Loudoun’s brand new Board of Supervisors will finalize the single largest financial decision in Loudoun’s history; or I should say, they will decide whether or not to let stand a decision that has already been made.

This decision, to spend this humongous amount of money, has already been approved by the previous Board... done, finished, ready to go...except, Loudoun can opt out and pay nothing after seeing those pesky 30% of final-preliminary cost numbers. 

“What?” you say. "Hold up the economic future of Loudoun County for something as trivial as real preliminary estimates of approximated cost numbers for a no-bid design-as-you-go mega project?" “You party pooper!” (sarcasm off)

This project has some real enemies; they are truth, information, an informed public, real analysis, and last but not least, time. Time, because time allows the afore mentioned enemies to have an effect on people.

Dare I say, if we have an actuary on staff at Loudoun County (LC), they are snoozing. There has yet to be a feasibility study done on this project. As of March 17, 2011, according to a report prepared by LC staff, there was no cost identifying how much LC would be required to contribute every year, forever, after joining the Metro group. Fairfax paid $42 million into Metro in 2004 and then watched that amount soar to $87 million in 2006. Do you think that kind of payout ought to get a little attention by our decision makers here in Loudoun? I do.

Message to our LC decision makers: There is a science called “actuary science” that mathematically evaluates the likelihood of events and quantifies the contingent outcomes in order to minimize losses, both emotional and financial, associated with uncertain undesirable events. Risks can affect both sides of the balance sheet...Hola!

I wish I could say a rock solid cost estimate based on factual information has been in the hands of our people for a while, but it hasn’t. Like Obamacare, this Rail to Loudoun deal is an opt-in-to-see-what’s-in-there-deal. Or you can look here to see the costs  in a Rail to Loudoun white paper that was done as a courtesy for Loudoun Supervisors. I’m not sure if any supervisors have had time to look at it.

PS: Thanks to my friend. Rob Whitfield, I learned the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce is asking the Loudoun Economic Development Commission(EDC)  to form another (second) resolution in favor of rail. Man they love that rail! I wish I could link you to their agenda, but I can't because instead of following FOIA open meeting laws and posting their agenda 3 days ahead of a meeting, they post it about three weeks after. Oopsy! Very smart business people these folks are, but they seem to have a low standard of scrutiny when it comes to endorsing publicly funded  projects as opposed to ones they invest in through their businesses. Many of these esteemed advisors to our Board of Supervisors will profit directly from the rail project. Many do not live in Loudoun County.

PSS:  Dr. Edgar Hatrick is a member of the Loudoun Chamber and attends EDC meetings. I hope Dr. Edgar Hatrick is ready for the school budget battles ahead that intensify as school funding needs meet the new gorilla in town. We call him "Rail to Loudoun."
David LaRock

Hamilton Virginia

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