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Resident says TIF not handled properly

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I read your post giving your position on Mayor Foster's actions and the TIF. I remain appreciative that you have always given me the opportunity to discuss my research with you. In that vein, I would like to explain my position on both matters. I do this in a public format only because you used to use this forum to present your position.

I realize you are not my alderman, but you assumed the leadership role of Chairmen of the Capital Projects Committee that coordinated with TDOT on the new tunnel project. This resulted in the approval of the new project that is expected to cost at least $5 million, although TDOT told you earlier the cost could be nearly $10 million. Whatever the final cost, this will mean the citizens of Hendersonville will be on the hook for millions of dollars for a project that should have already been completed. That money that could have be used to pave streets, fix drainage problems, and provide police and fire protection.

The letter T in TIF stands for TAX. The banks that provided the $18 million, for Halo to build Saundersville Road through the Indian Lake, were guaranteed payment from tax revenue generated as property values increased. The City of Hendersonville and the Sumner County government committed to this when they approved the Indian Lake Development Plan.

The records, as to how the money was spent, are held by the banks. Although, aldermen like Rosa Long have requested them, they have not been released. Even Scott Foster admitted, during a BOMA meeting, that he had not seen them. In my opinion the financial records, pertaining to how tax dollars are spent, should be held by the governmental agencies that authorized the expenditure. And, those records should be subject to open records law.

I'll admit, as an engineer, I know little about finances. My research centered on the Indian Lake Development and particularly the Saundersville Road modifications that were approved in 2008. But, in my mind, if you pay for something, you should see an accounting for how the money was spent. This is the big problem with the TIF. No one in city or county government who approved the TIF has seen an accounting for that $18 million.

Personally, I don't know if any money was stolen from the TIF funds. What I do know is the money is gone and the project was not completed. In addition, the taxpayers of Hendersonville are on the hook for millions of dollars more to finish the project that you helped guide through BOMA. I believe your leadership role makes you the best person to seek answers to our questions. I realize that the TIF was approved before you were elected. But as we all know, each new board is affected by the decisions of previous boards. They may be called upon to implement, enforce, amend. terminate previous decisions, or even investigate issues that are generated by previous boards.

I do not want you to become a "forensic accountant." Even if you could, there are no records to review. What I expect of you and all the aldermen is that you obtain the financial records concerning the TIF and hire a professional to review them. I don't believe that you would make a deal for as little as $100 work on your house without some accountability. Why shouldn't you be as diligent with taxpayer's money?

The next question is why wasn't the project completed. You stated, "The fact is that $1 million was to be received from HALO..., but the City ... never received the money and then HALO went out of business ...if you will recall 2008 was not kind to real estate companies / professions. ... Mayor Foster explained the circumstances to BOMA and we moved on as we cannot time travel and prevent a company from going out of business." On the surface, that seems reasonable. But, let's look at the resolution that authorized the project.

Hendersonville Resolution 2008-5, approved on Feb. 12, 2008 states, "that the Mayor is authorized to execute the attached contract with the Tenn. Dept. of Transportation ... subject to the following conditions:

  1. The City of Hendersonville's portion of the contract's funding shall be payed by Halo Properties, LLC, by certified funds..."

The first condition requires Halo provide certified funds. That means funds that are set aside out of Halo's control, so that the project can be completed in case (anything) happened and Halo does fulfil their obligations. Such as, becoming insolvent. There is no record that Foster ever made an effort to secure the funds.

I assume Halo would have been solvent in February 2008, and could have provided their share that been required. Halo continued work on the project and completing everything, except the tunnel connection to Main Street, by January 2010. They didn't become insolvent until 2011. So between February 2008 and 2011, it would seem Foster had ample time to do his job. The question that was never determined is why.

If Halo wasn't solvent in February 2008, then I would think that would have been fraud. If they were solvent and Foster did not require the certified funds, then the question is, why did he make an exception for Halo when every other developer are required to post sureties, as required by codes and regulations.

I put copies of Resolution 2008-5 in your hands as well as the other aldermen, and BOMA chose to look the other way and move forward with approving the multi-million dollar tunnel project without obtaining a full accounting for why the old project was never completed. I realize that no money could have been recovered, but if someone did something wrong then they should be held accountable.

You also stated, "Not out of character, this group claimed that they had so much "evidence" that no email system could handle the size of their files." Darrell, the group doesn't have the files, I have the files. And they take up 14.3 GB. I spent about four years obtaining records from the city, TDOT, the Industrial Development Board, and others. But, you know I have the files because I have shared many of the with you and the other BOMA members.

I never claimed to have single piece of evidence of a crime. What I can do is trace the development of the Indian Lake Village development as far back as 2003. I believe the documents strongly suggest that Foster and Halo may have never intended to complete the tunnel portion of the project. And there is evidence that Foster took money from individuals with Halo ties.

I will be happy to provide other information if you want. Such as: how Foster wrote Halo, after the resolution was approved, stating he didn't intend to build the tunnel portion unless TDOT made him; how Foster and Halo went to TDOT and changed the contract without informing BOMA, how Foster informed TDOT that the City was going to terminate the contract (after Halo finished the part of the project they needed and BOMA was never informed) and how Foster took funds from the Halo personnel.

Every action Foster took helped Halo and hurt the taxpayers. I may not have the smoking gun, but there seems to be a strong smoky stench surrounding this project.

Mike Crabb, Sr. is a resident of Hendersonville and retired engineer with TDOT.

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July 23, 2017 at 2:22pm
Kudos to the Standard for printing this so that Mr. Crabb can get the information to the public.
My belief is now and has always been that Foster and Halo struck a closed door deal (bribe) that Foster would steer the city to create a way to drive traffic from the bypass above Indian Lake and the Saundersville Road McMansions to the Indian Lake shopping development. I cannot prove it but I had my suspicions when Foster was publicly claiming the railroad was threatening to shut down the crossing at Saundersville Road and he acted like it was going to happen immediately. He then pressed for everything Halo needed to provide easy access to all of that Indian Lake development, shopping etc, which helped Halo command a better price for the parcels he sold/developed etc. I watched Foster again and again manipulate BOMA and dept. heads to do what Halo needed done. Anyone who thinks he did that for free is naive at best.
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