In the early 1990s, the state saw fit to post $20 million in bonds for something vital, crucial to the state, the economy and all the wee little folks who call Tennessee home. Health care? Education? Housing? Law Enforcement? Nope. Think Golf courses. Who better to get state financing than the ultra-needy folks who travel the nation and the world whacking balls into holes with sticks?
"The locations were very poor to draw the type of clientele they would need to charge the fees they proposed," said William H. Barnett II, an accountant in East Tennessee who opposed the building of the Bear Trace 10 years ago, predicting that it would go in the red.
"We also felt, as we looked at it, that many of the locations were political. That's very powerful in this state. When you combine political motivation with an investment of that type and it's not successful - then the taxpayers pay."
It gets better - well, for some anyway - despite warnings of the failure of this project (shrug, shrug) it was endorsed and it failed and you are stuck with the cost. But at least one person got a nifty state job from the operation, according to the report cited above:
" ... the lawyer for Tennessee Golf, Nashville lawyer James L. Murphy, explained the dire straits in a Dec. 10, 2004, letter to Jim Fyke, who was head of the state parks system at the time.
"While The Bear Trace golf courses may or may not have been the best use of the $20 million in bond money that the state authorized in 1993, that decision cannot be reversed," Murphy wrote.
"The money has already been spent and ... it is impossible for anyone to generate the revenues required to meet the increased debt service obligations that will be required beginning in 2006."
The company lost plenty, too, including more than $17 million in investments it made in the courses, he said. Fyke, who is now the state's commissioner of Environment and Conservation, declined to comment through a spokeswoman."
Nice job. It's in the hole!