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I got Schneblied on stadium deal

December 15, 1999

I knew there was a reason I didn't want to see John Schnebly elected to the Board of County Commissioners. He just reeks of professional competence and political agility.

This is distressing, because for more than five years I have never had to worry about going broke by betting on the County Commissioners not only to underachieve, but to underachieve in a way that ranged from mild amusement to full frontal hilarity.

So no matter what they did Tuesday when it came time to vote on a plan to build a new minor league baseball stadium, I had in the words of Mark Twain the "cool confidence of a Christian holding four aces" that the result would produce some sort of train wreck, whether they passed the proposal or not.

Then, for lack of a better term, I got Schneblied.

After the initial question of a $3 million county bond bill failed (give Commissioner Paul Swartz credit, he predicted in Sunday's papers that the vote would be 4-1) Schnebly brought forward a compromise funding plan that is so clever it not only keeps taxpayers who live in the county off the hook (and gets the commissioners off the hook for blame if the stadium proposal fails), it will actually turn a profit for the county to boot.

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The county plan would raise the local hotel-motel room tax by two cents to pay for the county's $3 million share of the stadium's construction. Any leftover money, and it looks as if there may be a tidy amount, goes into the county treasury.

Big hotels that benefit from visiting baseball teams staying in their rooms might not mind quite so much, but I'm guessing this won't be popular with the smaller inns.

Schnebly's plan puts the burden for a new stadium squarely where it ought to be: On the backs of the bed and breakfast owners of Washington County. Good! I say bed and breakfast owners have had a free ride in this nation for too long! We've had it with their frilly dust ruffles and their herbal tea and their cinnamon-flavored pet food! Who's with me?

What? Oh, sorry.

Anyway, this problem could be solved - although I suppose Mr. Smart-Guy Schnebly has already thought of this too - by putting the Savannah Sand Gnats up in bed and breakfasts from time to time.

Some of the owners might freak when the ballplayers mistake lavender sachets for resin bags or worse, but that has to be a risk you're willing to take.

The real beauty of this plan is that now the pressure for success falls squarely on the shoulders of members of the Washington County legislative delegation, who know full well the entire county business community will be watching their performance with a whole lot of interest. As people, you couldn't ask for a nicer group, but as a lawmaking body the delegation always reacts to pressure like an orchid in a pizza oven.

And last year they couldn't get a bill passed that, no kidding, would have permitted local governments to fine homeowners whose houses emitted a "sickening stench." How are they going to negotiate a multimillion-dollar construction deal?

Of course, as Sen. Don Munson correctly pointed out, and as we have recently learned the hard way ourselves, much of the stadium's success now rests with the governor. Who knows, he may fund the stadium and order it to be built in the Baldwin House.

Or maybe the governor will pencil in stadium funding because he feels he owes us something since he went against community sentiment on the college location.

Hoo boy, sometimes I crack even myself up.

But the real thing we have to be concerned about is that the County Commissioners didn't drop the ball, but came forward with an interesting and imaginative funding proposal of their own.

I know, I'm scared, too.




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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