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Letter: Now is time for Newton to pump the brakes on spending

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I am writing in response to the Sept. 13, 2022 article that your paper ran announcing that the city of Newton wants to purchase a county building for $187,000 to create some sort of business incubator for Newton.

My response is simple, enough is enough. We have millions tied up in a project that isn’t complete and only a third of the way done. The Streetscape was to encourage growth and increase the vitality of the downtown area, same ambition and goal but won’t be completed and considered successful in the eyes of the taxpayers for many years.

As a taxpayer for the county, I say shame on you. Put the building up on the market and let someone pay more than the asking price. The word on the street is that you have already given away the former Newton-Conover Rescue Squad building on East 27th Street in Newton to the much neglected and underfunded Newton Fire Department. That nice piece of real estate and building should have been sold to the highest bidder and the proceeds go into the county general fund to reduce taxes. Now we lose the taxes that could have been earned each year off of it.

I hope the citizens are not fooled by this low-cost building. It will need a roof, complete interior renovations, new furniture and state of the art technology all paid for by our taxes. Then we will have to hire and fund the “experts” to staff the building to solve a non-issue. This grand idea will end up costing the Newton taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for decades.

If this type of service is needed, then let some young and aggressive entrepreneur invest in the building and create the service. We currently pay huge fees to the Western Piedmont Council of Government, Chambers of Commerce, economic development groups, and I am sure there are more who already provide this service. This will also generate property and payroll taxes. You know, make money for the city instead of costing money.

If you want businesses to come to Newton do three things.

First, lower our taxes. You can have all the flowers hanging off the street poles you want but if they can’t afford to operate here, they won’t. Newton has one of the highest tax rates in the county and in the region.

Second, make the process of starting a business a little friendlier. Many of the recently opened businesses or people who wanted to open in Newton said the city staff were uncaring, rude, and incompetent. That is an easy fix.

Third, stop daydreaming of ways to spend money and fix the core infrastructure problems and you will see that people will want to come to a town that has smooth streets, sidewalks that do not resemble a third world country, and a city that has compassion and cares for the elderly, the homeless and less fortunate.

I do not think the current city of Newton leadership has ever been presented a request to spend money and said no. Now is the time to pump the brakes.

Yerby Ray


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