Guest Post | Hancock County Alliance for Good Government: 2014—-A Year of “Elections” and “Decisions”

First of all, a Happy New Year to all–hope your holidays were all you wanted them to be and the New Year will be successful for you. This year will be a year of “elections” or “decisions” if you will. Waveland will hold their municipal elections in the Fall, and if that seems far off, just wait. It will be here before you know it. Certainly the announcements and campaigning will be here soon. The Alliance will sponsor a political forum as we do for all the elections, so stay tuned if you are a candidate or simply a voter.

Events that have unfolded since the Bay St. Louis officials took the oath of office last July indicate that the Bay City Council needs to “elect” to see that their city’s bills get paid whether or not the Mayor does. They may have to “take the checkbook” away from him if need be. This is, of course, a figure of speech, but they do have the legal responsibility for seeing that the bills are paid, which could be to refuse to approve any more dockets until he pays the Solid Waste and Hancock County Utility Authorities what the city owes them. After all, these folks have dockets to pay as well. And using the excuse that they fell behind because they didn’t charge enough for utilities is ridiculous. That’s not the fault of the Utility Authorities. By the way, what happened to the $500,000 line of credit that was supposed to cover these utility bills? And, most importantly, what is the administration doing with the money the users are sending to city hall to pay these bills? The city does’t own any garbage trucks or employ any garbage workers. So what makes them think they can keep funds for a service they not only do not, but cannot perform? Amazing. Who knows what the list of delinquent bills looks like? Now we are hearing that Lowe’s has cut the city off for non payment; and heard it from RELIABLE sources.

Let’s hope the ad valorem taxes in the Bay are enough to take care of these problems what with the Harbor coming on board between March and May–built by the Feds, but to be maintained by the locals. The continuing long list of foreclosures in the paper each week is very disturbing. Continue reading “Guest Post | Hancock County Alliance for Good Government: 2014—-A Year of “Elections” and “Decisions””

I hear A. J. Giardina was in town today

And the legal fight brewing between the Bay Waveland School District, New Orleans developer Jim Macphaille and singer Rochelle Harper is gonna make the local TeeVee News. The subject is complex and comes with requisite cronyism and incompetence. Hopefully Giardina does not butcher it.

One naturally wonders why Hancock County beat reporter Al Showers does not have this story for WLOX but maybe he took the day off to pay his severely late water bill. More on that later today.

Let the subpoenas fly: A Bay Tech Building Swindle Update

Joe Friday comes to mind here folks since the parties did not remain silent and Magnolia Group Attorney Ben Galloway is hot on the trail. Sending a subpoena to the Echo, whose publisher is married to the School Board President, is an interesting maneuver. I’m sensing quality muck will emerge in this case as I hope the taxpayers learn the full extent to which their local schools have been co opted by the politically connected in service to their pecuniary interests.

Magnolia Group v O'Dwyer et al Doc 16

I am hearing disturbing things about another Bay Waveland School District real estate deal…….

Here is the setup via the Seacoast Echo:

The sale of the old Second Street Elementary property in Bay St. Louis has been slightly delayed, but the prospective buyers have put up $100,000 to sweeten the deal.

At a special meeting on Friday, the Bay-Waveland School District Board of Trustees approved an amendment to its commercial real estate contract with New Orleans developers Jim and Catherine MacPhaille.

The deal was expected to close on May 2, but the amendment extends the closing until May 20. School board attorney Ronnie Artigues told board members that the delay is necessary because the MacPhailles are in the midst of another real estate transaction.

Once again doing research on a topic leads me to a St Chas mansion via the Times Picayune social pages:

Queen Anne-style house matches the grandeur of the Uptown park it overlooks ~ NOLA.com

So these cats live in a multi million dollar mansion with a view of Audubon Park and yet they are jonesing on a $786,000 steal in the heart of Old Town Bay St Louis? After all these are the same folks that shelled out $2.45MM on a historic school in NOLA just for the heck of it. Continue reading “I am hearing disturbing things about another Bay Waveland School District real estate deal…….”

Good Government Monday: Hancock County Alliance for Good Government

It’s budget time again for the public schools in Mississippi. In Hancock County, no matter how you slice the pie, there is less revenue available due to the decrease in ad valorem taxes–high percentage of abandoned properties. The mil actually devalued here this year according to the Tax Collector’s Office.

Add to this increased insurance costs, PERS coming out of local funds this year, and no real increase in enrollment for Bay-Waveland School District. According to school records there an increase of only 9 students as of this time last year. Remember “headcount” matters every morning to determine support from the State.

To make matters worse for our school districts statewide, as of July 1, new legislation will require little Johnny to be present 63% of the day to be counted present. No more arriving at 7:30, leaving at 8:00 and still being counted present resulting in state funding.  The State Auditor, Stacey Pickering, was quoted in the Sun-Herald on June 14, as saying he has never like the Average Daily Attendance Formula because it cannot be audited. Imagine that!

Twenty years ago the Miss. Legislature commissioned a study on the spending of tax dollars by public school officials. Their findings were: Too many school districts (152) and too much money spent on administration. Their recommendations: consolidation of districts and using the savings in the classroom for teachers and students. Continue reading “Good Government Monday: Hancock County Alliance for Good Government”

And upon the hill they planted their flag…….

Trustees approve Bay Tech renovation ~ The Sea Coast Echo

As the shifting story continues to evolve:

Both Bunch and the LNG partners have said their actions were entirely proper and legal and that the so-called “controversy” has been manufactured; and Ronnie Artigues, attorney for the BWSD, said the district was happy because it purchased the property for well under its appraised and assessed values.

Slabbed has learned The Magnolia Group has begun the formalities of commencing civil litigation in this matter.  Slabbed has also learned the Mississippi Real Estate Commission has also opened a formal investigation based upon multiple complaints they have received on this specious, taxpayer funded transaction.

Slabbed will be covering this debacle and related wasting of taxpayer money by the Bay Waveland School Board as events unfold. Stay tuned.

Links to Slabbed’s previous coverage of this matter:

Sea Coast Echo story on Bay Waveland Schools buying Bay Tech building raises additional questions (UPDATED)

Earlier today I linked the Sea Coast Echo report on the Bay Waveland School Board’s purchase of the Bay Tech Building encouraging our readers to read it as reporter Geoff Belcher attempted to frame the story as a business spat between realtors.  I beg to differ and as I examined his story critically, especially the quotes from Mary Bunch, Avra O’Dwyer and School Board Attorney Ronnie Artigues, I ended up with more questions than answers.  Luckily for everyone I did some interviewing of my own so maybe I can answer some of these questions.

Belcher compartmentalizes the topic into “two major components to the controversy” but he missed a few components in the spin cycle so we need to first examine what we know and compare that to the quotes he snagged and the assertions he made.  Since I bring my day job skills to the blogging scene I’ll warn my new readers this won’t read like a newspaper guy wrote this story but I bet I can make everything understandable thus we begin with the disclosure of the people I interviewed for this post: Bill Washburn, former owner of the Bay Tech Building via his company Magnolia Group LLC, Lana Noonan with the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government, and Ms Avra O’Dwyer, owner of O’Dwyer Realty.  Before I get to their remarks I’d like to make a couple of observations so let’s quote from the end of the story, specifically the attributed remarks of School Board Attorney Ronnie Artigues with Butler Snow:

Artigues likened the process to the district’s recent purchase of two properties near Waveland Elementary to make room for road expansion there.

“We had to offer them the appraised value,” he said. “It’s no different, it doesn’t matter who the owner is.”

Mississippi is considered a non-disclosure state. Property owners are not required to reveal what theythemselves paid for the property to a prospective new buyer.

The $325,000 figure did not become public until Multiple Listing Service (MLS), a nation-wide real estate listing, added it to the Bay Tech description page.

“We got it for the lowest possible number based on the appraisal,” Artigues said, adding that the district was quite pleased with the price, at the time of the sale.

The assertion a govermnet has to offer “appraised value” in a privately negotiated real estate transaction is absurd. I’m not sure of the context of the reporters statement regarding the late date the transaction was entered into the MLS or how it fits. For instance is the reporter trying to hint at the fact the last sale of the building was not considered in the appraisal report the school district paid for after the August School Board meeting?  It simply isn’t clear. Continue reading “Sea Coast Echo story on Bay Waveland Schools buying Bay Tech building raises additional questions (UPDATED)

Court documents raise questions about Bay-Waveland School District’s purchase of the old Bay Tech Building

Last month the Seacoast Echo reported the Bay-Waveland School District had purchased the Old Bay Tech building on Second Street in Old Town Bay St Louis to house the district’s administrative offices and alternative school. This purchase would mark the beginning of the final phase of school district’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina and breathe new life in a building that has sat empty since the storm.

In a way that piece also encapsulates the state of the school district in 2012, which has found itself at odds with local good government activists over several issues that I will not go into on this post.  That said today the FEMA funded transaction the district executed to purchase the Bay Tech building will be examined in detail because the Seacoast Echo got it wrong, which is strange considering the editor of the paper is married to the school board president. To kick-start things let’s visit with that story I linked above:

The Bay St. Louis-Waveland School District has purchased the old Bay Tech building in Bay St. Louis, hoping to turn it into a new district office and alternative school.

The building and 1.6 acres of land located at 200 N. Second Street were purchased for $580,000. According to county tax records, the previous owner was Magnolia Group LLC of Shorewood, Ill.

Now when I say the Echo got it wrong I do not mean the reporting was lazy, as I think the reporter faithfully reported everything that was said in the meeting. We need to examine another snippet though, before Slabbed tells the in-depth story:

Project Coordinator Brad Barlow said buying the building made sense for the district.

“We’ve explored many routes and found that this was a cost-effective way,” he said.

Although the project has been delayed over other projects, Ladner said, the district wanted to get the schools rebuilt first.

Funding will come from FEMA proceeds and district funds.

I’ll admit I saw this piece last month and came away thinking $580K for a building and 1.6 acres of land in old town was a bargain. That is until I learned that it was sold on June 7, 2012 by the Magnolia Group to a LLC owned by 3 local business people for $325,000, that public records show owned the property around a month before flipping it to the school district for a $255,000 profit. Let’s establish that via the Multiple Listing Service aka the MLS.  I have made certain redactions to protect certain individuals that I do not believe were involved in the transaction: Continue reading “Court documents raise questions about Bay-Waveland School District’s purchase of the old Bay Tech Building”