The Loudon County Economic Development Agency (EDA)

Tucked away in one of the many bends of the Tennessee River in Loudon is an old house built in 1864 by Hugh Blair. At that time the house was known as the "Yon Side." The Blair family continued to occupy the home until it was purchased by the Williamson family in 1938. The name of the home was then changed to "The Anchorage."  In the 1980's the old house was bought by the City of Loudon and moved to it's present location to make room for the development of the Blair Bend Industrial Park. It's current occupants are the The Loudon County Economic Development Agency (EDA) and The Loudon County Office of Planning. While the old home is still officially know as the Williamson House, some of us have a special little nickname we use when referring to the old home with it's current inhabitants.  We call it the "Frat House."

At some point in the history of the EDA I assume they actually contributed something positive to the County. However in my time on commission and for several years prior, I can find no evidence that the EDA has been anything but a constant financial burden and drain on the tax payers. I must give credit where credit is due. Several years ago under the leadership of EDA president and Knoxville resident Mr. Pat Phillips, Loudon County and the City of Loudon entered into a joint venture known as "Center 75 Business Park", a commercial/industrial/residential park located just off Hwy 72 and running parallel to Interstate 75 in Loudon. The project began with 284 acres of what some might call useless farm land with cattle grazing on it. $6,149,769.00 and many years later it is still farm land with cattle grazing on it. Of course there is a nice road through the middle of it and a hundred thousand dollar fence around it. What a deal for the tax payers.

Over the years, I, and others have tried to eliminate funding to the EDA feeling that it had far out lived it's usefulness. But for what ever reason, this has proven to be all but impossible. The agency is costing the County and City tax payers nearly $175,000.00 per year to continue to maintain this do nothing agency. (05/06 Loudon County $119,772.00, Loudon $28,644.00 Lenoir City $24,,084.00.) I have never been able to obtain an actual detailed financial report from the agency which always throws up red flags. Click here for EDA budget. Now I read in the 8/28/06 News Herald that the agency is trying to figure out ways to keep even more of their information from public scrutiny. The debate centers around the agency's alleged need for secrecy because they are dealing with "big corporations" who demand it versus the fact that they
receive nearly all their funding from local governments subjecting them to open public records laws.

Part time County attorney, Harvey Sproul is quoted in the paper as saying, "we should continue to to maintain that we are a non-governmental body." How could any competent attorney dispense that kind of advice? News Herald publisher and EDA board member, Kevin Burcham correctly pointed out to the board that if the EDA receives public funds, the public has every right to access of the agency's records.

The taxpayers of this County should no longer be forced to continue funding such an agency as the EDA. They produce nothing, they're costing a fortune to maintain, and now they want to keep even more secrets? We just can't have this. If Phillips and company want to run a secret society at the Frat House, then they should cut all ties with local government, get off the tax payer tit, and go try to make it on their own.

Total waste of tax payer money, approximately $175,000.00 per year.