$1,230,000 Million For Spaceport In New Budget Won't Be Enough
Spaceport Camden officials chose to hide the FAA's notice that 16 more months of expenses and "consulting" are required. (Link to Schedule)
Even then, the FAA warns that no rocket launches are assured:
If the FAA's notice were good news, spaceport promoters would have generated a press release. But not this time. They've announced frivolous non-events such as the self-taught astronaut trainer who's itching to come to Spaceport Camden and an Atlanta startup that wants to build its first project around the non-existent spaceport. They now secretly propose a rocket with 100% failed launches.
It's no wonder they keep secrets from taxpayers.
The FAA released the new timeline last Monday. Camden's silence means the FAA's letter is terrible news. Understandably, they want to keep the latest spaceport delays secret since they've already blown through years of deadlines and several extra millions of dollars. If the EIS milestone gets completed in late 2021, Spaceport Camden will have taken longer than hydro-electric dams, 800-mile pipelines, and seaports. Spaceport Camden is taking years longer than the average of 4.5 years because it is the wrong place for a spaceport. A momma elephant could have added three baby elephants to the herd over that time. Spaceport promoters have no idea they'll meet the new October 2021 deadline.
The FAA's actions brought out the truth about spaceport spending. Five full months after Commissioners changed Spaceport Camden's scope to small rockets, they have no idea how much more the EIS will cost. Steve Howard said, 'The county is working on understanding the estimated costs with the FAA's third-party consultant,' and that they can't predict if they'll need $2,750-a-week, spaceport subject matter expert Andrew Nelson. At $8.3 million spent, and counting, is anyone not disgusted that they originally budgeted $750,000?
Howard tied to blame the FAA when he said, "[T]he FAA hires those consultants at the county's expense and the county has no control over the output or quality of their work."
That's simply not true.
As Spaceport Project Lead, County Administrator Howard is Andrew Nelson's manager. Nelson's contract says he "shall act as the Camden County project manager for the Leidos-performed EIS for the proposed spaceport property." The FAA was forced to disown Nelson's fictitious "Authorized Persons" status for people living on Cumberland Island since there's no such thing in the FAA regulations. He admitted to Washington DC lawyers that he had made it up. It is one of the many mysterious FAA failures of regulatory oversite found in the Draft EIS.
Nelson supervised the October 2019 "Safety Analysis." Taxpayers paid extra for that commissioned work. The "Safety Analysis" was a publicity stunt that proved unusable for licensing. That cost taxpayers another $30,000 on top of the $1.2 million we've paid Nelson. Documents and communications from 2017 indicate the FAA has challenged Camden's claims for years.
Camden’s 2021 Budget includes $1,230,000 for the spaceport. But our stealthy Commissioners
intentionally buried the spaceport expenses in the "Special Appropriations" line of the proposed budget for 2020-2021. They have detail lines for $11,506 for Juvenile Justice and $1,396,426 for the Department of Public Works that actually creates jobs and services, but $1,230,000 for Spaceport Camden is buried deep in the 122-page budget.
Worse yet, $1,230,000 is anywhere close to the amount they'll have to spend to get a site license. And that's before the required environmental remediation and annual monitoring, the loss of property tax, and security and maintenance costs we'll have to budget, even if a revenue-producing rocket never launches from the "spaceport."
Something fishy is driving this project because it certainly is not in the interest of Camden citizens.