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Head-scratcher on Mottley Lake

The Farmville Town Council presumably had a good reason for selling Mottley Lake to a Richmond developer whose offer will almost certainly result in fewer dollars, paid over a longer period, for the town’s coffers than what was offered by another bidder.

Unfortunately, taxpayers still don’t know the reason.

The council voted Wednesday night to sell the property to Farmville Farms LLC, whose registered agent, Russell Harper, has an impressive track record of commercial development, including right here in Farmville. While Harper’s offer of $1.25 million was higher than a competing offer of $1.225 million, taxpayers look to net less money because of the interest and payment terms offered. Harper will pay no interest for the first five years, then an undetermined interest rate for the next five years, taking a total of 10 years to pay for the property. Adjacent property owners David and Robyn Simpson offered a slightly lower purchase price but a five-year payment schedule instead of 10, and 4 percent interest throughout. Simple math shows that the Simpson offer was better.

It should be noted that the council had no obligation, legally or ethically, to accept the better financial bid. The council does, however, have an obligation as stewards of the taxpayers’ money to explain the logic of a decision that will add fewer dollars to town coffers.

The justification in this case was easy. Harper will take the lake and surrounding land in Prospect and develop it commercially and/or residentially for the betterment of our community’s economy. The Simpsons, who own adjoining property, wanted to preserve it and prevent development.

That’s an easy case for the council to make. Unfortunately, they failed to make it, leaving taxpayers scratching their heads about apparent fiscal imprudence.