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'Disgraceful' deception over Pinnacle Pointe

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In the Monday July 26, issue of Roane County News, Cindy Simpson published a compilation of discussions that I have had with the Harriman City Council on economic projects that benefit both Harriman and Roane County.
In the article, those discussions were linked to Pinnacle Pointe in a way that suggests my agreement with Prestige and their lawyer on their style of development.
I don’t agree.
The juxtaposing of good development objectives with the characters in the Pinnacle Pointe saga offended me.
The article reminds me of a strategy copied from the movie The Godfather.
In the 1972 movie, the lawyer for Michael Corleone gets his reporter to plant a story in the local newspaper to sway public opinion about a bad deed.
In 2010, a lawyer lobbied to write a favorable article about tax benefits from Pinnacle Pointe as if that were justification for what the contractor revealed about overbilling for infrastructure.
In retrospect, Pinnacle Pointe, an innovative idea that was to be a good public/private partnership, was successful in bringing Lowe’s shoppers back to Roane County and in adding a new restaurant, UPS shipping services, eye health services and other retail business.
Underlying this success, however, the partnership appears to have degenerated into a disgraceful deception involving public funds.
The issues to be sorted out in court have to do with alleged falsified invoices that deviated from the schedule of charges prepared by the contractor based on his bid.
Based on documents released as a result of the contractor’s lawsuit, and the contractor’s admission to the District Attorney General, the schedule of costs appears to have been altered resulting in overcharging to Harriman for infrastructure.
One bad apple or one bad newspaper article should not influence our goals for development in Roane County.
The old saying is “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”
The goal is still valid, and the success is evident.
We in government should continue to outpace inflation with revenues from new business development to minimize the property tax burden on residential property.
Expanding the tax base through development will increase revenue without changing the tax rate.
Obviously, this requires a closer look at how commercial and industrial development is implemented.
For future public/private partnerships to be successful, truly arms-length checks and balances need to be in place before any work is started.
There should be no room for the developer/landowner to blur the line between what is public infrastructure and what is private development.
Finally, in our industrial park projects, we should channel development toward initiatives that represent best use based on the county’s long-range plan.
Charles Kerley
Harriman