Letter to the Editor – Brown County Democrat – “Maple Leaf – Stop Digging” – Publication date moved to May 2, 2018. Letter titled: ‘Stop Digging’ on performance venue.
There is wisdom in the metaphor that states that if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. The Democrat’s article published April 18, 2018, “Maple Leaf bid opening pushed back” continues to reinforce the challenges, consequences, and issues regarding the process and decisions that were made regarding this project.
The fast-track process applied to develop a government-owned and managed venue lacked transparency and the needed checks and balances to ensure citizens that the Commissioners and Council performed their due diligence. Project originators and leaders who proposed this project included innkeepers that have a conflict of interest. An independent feasibility study was not done on their behalf to provide objectivity and to validate the concept, financial projections, and risks.
Further, Commissioner and Council approved the project and refused to hold public meetings to obtain citizen input regarding the desirability and concerns with this project. The Commissioner and Council also did not review the complete business plan at a public meeting before voting to approve this project. Representatives from the commissioners, council and the Maple Leaf project also refused the League of Women Voters offer to facilitate a community conversation to address citizen’s concerns and questions.
It’s not too late to stop this project. Identify lessons learned and market the project to the private sector. Brown County has the third highest debt per person in Indiana. We do not need more risk and more debt.
This project was forced on the community. If this venue is built and does not live up to expectations, it will likely lead to more conflict and divisiveness. It may also motivate action towards selling this venue at any cost with innkeeper revenue being used to cover any outstanding liabilities.
The county’s application for a State Stellar grant included a series of new projects that were identified without wide-scale community involvement. Community opposition led to the county’s non-selection for the grant. The hard feelings slowly faded away but are not forgotten locally or within the state.
If Maple Leaf is not reconsidered, the opposition could likely grow, and social media campaigns may discourage any company from wanting their name associated with this venue.
Ongoing opposition and conflict may also discourage visitors from attending events and visiting Brown County which can lead to a reputation that the county is a place to avoid. Advocates of this project have the option of raising private capital and financing this venue with their resources.