This is where 12 years of Steve Howard has brought us.
If the FAA issues a spaceport site license, Camden Commissioners don’t have the money to buy the property or to develop it into a spaceport. We’ll have to borrow millions to buy the Union Carbide property and millions more for improvements. That will take property tax increases to make the monthly payments for ten years.
That loan will be on top of the money Commissioners will have to borrow mid-year to meet County payroll and regular expenses. But perhaps this year they will manage cash flow better and not overdraw our checking account.
Before closing on the property, taxpayers must buy a $10 million environmental liability policy payable to Union Carbide to cover damages caused by earth-moving, construction, and space operations. The annual cost of the policy will equal the salaries of about 3 to 5 EMS technicians. But we'll also be liable for any newly discovered contamination hidden in 40 years of forest growth. Not even Dow/Dupont/Union Carbide are willing to take on those costs.
Camden Commissioners don’t have a rocket company tenant that has a licensed rocket to launch. In fact, Vector hasn’t launched anything since their amateur rocket in 2017 and never attempted the multiple orbital launches promised in 2018. The 2017 launch is reported as occurring at “’Spaceport Camden’ – little more than a concrete slab in the middle of a forest.” ABL Space hasn’t even moved a desk into the church gym they rented in St. Marys, and they’ve never launched any kind of test rocket. Astra Space is still 0 for 2 with two failed test launches from Kodiak, Alaska. It's a good thing for Cumberland National Seashore that those launches weren't attempted here.
Within days of the FAA granting the license, Camden taxpayers and the FAA will be named as defendants in federal lawsuits filed by national parks and environmental organizations, downrange property owners, and perhaps the U.S. Department of Interior. Camden will likely be sued in Georgia courts under O.C.G.A. § 22-1-1(9) and other sections prohibiting condemnation not meeting specific requirements.
Lawsuits will take years and hundreds of thousands more from taxpayers to defend. [See Link]
All for Steve Howard’s speculative spaceport.
Our Commissioners aren't acting in the taxpayers' best interest. It’s NOT their job to speculate in the space industry where even venture capitalists will NOT risk their money.
They have the gall to demand the Sheriff and Fire Chief provide detailed budgets justifying long-overdue pay raises for Firemen, EMS and Deputies while the Commissioners have spent over a million dollars a year on Steve Howard’s speculative spaceport with no budget at all. Meanwhile, Howard has delegated many of his responsibilities to a “Deputy” who costs us another hundred grand a year so that Howard can trot off to space conventions. We pay for his travel, too. His latest excursion cost us at least $1,278.77.
The PSA scandal festered for virtually the entire time Steve Howard has been County Administrator. The need for an expensive special election in Fall 2019 to expand the PSA Board is ridiculous. Isn’t it odd that the Commissioners created a Spaceport Authority without an election, ignoring more than 1,700 voters who signed petitions to stop them, yet will spend tens of thousands for a special election just to expand the PSA Board?
A single county leader with good business sense is all we need yet that simple solution escapes our elected officials who blame (??spaceport opponents??) rather than their and Howard’s ineffective leadership. Meanwhile, the Commissioners have created an unaccountable Spaceport Authority where they get to handpick the board members which will include two of their own kind. Similarly, two commissioners are on the PSA Board! Even Einstein figured out that's INSANE!
Camden’s problems have not happened overnight. Howard’s lack of experience is regularly revealed. If it’s government’s job to set the stage for job growth, the curtain has never risen on the Steve Howard Show. A lot of us wonder if Camden wouldn’t be better off if Howard’s salary were allocated to the 6 Deputy positions the Sheriff Department needs.
Steve Howard and Jimmy Starline have never presented a business plan showing us six important things they should have known before they spent the millions we’ll never recover:
1. How much revenue does a rocket launch provide and what does it cost to operate a spaceport?
2. Will our taxes be higher or lower than today even if 12 rockets a year are launched?
3. How will Camden citizens benefit in terms of real dollars?
4. How much more will it all cost us and how do Commissioners expect to pay for it all?
5. What secrets to spaceport success do Steve Howard and Jimmy Starline know that have eluded all other spaceports requiring them to perpetually seek subsidies?
6. How will Camden convince the FAA to license currently illegal rocket launches over Cumberland and Little Cumberland Islands?
Since Camden’s spaceport subject matter expert has never operated a spaceport, and Steve Howard’s experience amounts to hobnobbing at space conferences, and since all spaceport states have secrecy laws about their spaceport economics, how can Camden learn the answers to those questions? Are we also paying spies?
WILL WE EVER KNOW THE ANSWERS OR THE TRUTH FROM THIS BUNCH OF "LEADERS"?