Whether you were for or against its purchase, drive by the old Wal-Mart building in Liberty today and it is difficult not to consider the possibilities that such a large well located building could have. Continue on in to the city and drive by the courthouse and one is reminded of how messy the politics have become since County Judge Phil Fitzgerald, Commissioner Norman Brown and others decided to pursue purchasing the building and possibly consolidating county offices and the local hospital.
Ray Akins, along with others, stated publicly that the best use of this property could be county offices and an advanced trauma care facility for the county. He also went on to say, "If the taxpayers are going to be stuck with the Hospital District Taxing entity, we should use the money for the highest tech 21st century trauma care available." Akins went on to say, "The price paid for this property was not proportionate to the current real property market values, someone made off like a bandit."
All of that said, it is time to compartmentalize and to again move forward. Let the people that are unscrambling what has gone on in the courthouse do their work while we encourage public officials to do the best job they can possibly do for Liberty County. With that in mind, even Judge Fitzgerald's toughest critic must admit he is a good horse trader and may be the best county judge we have had in a long time to plan and negotiate what we ultimately do with the Wal-Mart building.
Those of us who critique public officials may ought to back off and give the County Judge some encouragement to finish what he started. His business experience and his ability to negotiate, coupled with the original vision for where the county could benefit by this building, makes for a good rationale to ask our leaders to make a priority of this project. Rather than let the building sit there unused and off of the tax rolls, go forward and see what happens.
As a taxpayer, we can't let the politics of the time limit the progress we can make for future generations. Norman Brown and Lee Groce are running for reelection as commissioners and we need to encourage them to deal with the reality of the fact that we, as a county, own this building and we want them to make the best use of it that is available.
In this area we might not be able to count on Groce if he is going to be a sourpuss because he voted against it. But Commissioner Brown has been dealing with trying to be creative and make the best use of resources since the first time he was elected seven years ago. Taxpayers should encourage Brown and Fitzgerald and the rest of the commissioners to explore the possibilities and to move forward.
This project is not necessarily a white elephant. It has great possibilities. In fact, years from now citizens may look back at this time and these men and be thankful for their forward thinking and their creative effort. Let's not waste this summer like the November election has some magical spell over progress, let's move forward...