$60 Million Construction Site - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

09/23/03

$60 Million Construction Site

The state spent millions to clear the way for the DaimlerChrysler van plant. In fact, they spent $40 million more than they intended, bringing the state deficit to at least a half billion dollars.

It seemed like a dream come true for the Coastal Empire when then-governor Roy Barnes made the announcement in October of 2002. "DaimlerChrysler has chosen Pooler, Georgia, as the site of their new Sprinter and Vito-Van manufacturing facility," he said. "This decision couldn't be more important to this county, to the entire region and to the entire state."

But now that DaimlerChrysler has decided not to build in Chatham County, state senator Eric Johnson (R-Savannah) says Barnes' announcement was based on assumptions and not facts. "We've learned our lesson the hard way from Gov.  Barnes from moving too fast. In this business, you keep it quiet until you've signed on the dotted line."

After Gov. Barnes announced that DaimlerChrysler was planning to come to Chatham County, $20 million was put aside to clear this site. After all was said and done, the state ended up paying around $60 million. With all that money gone from the state's budget, state lawmakers are hoping to make it up.

"We could have used that money in other areas like healthcare, on education that now have been spent on dirt," Sen. Johnson said. "But let's try and be optimistic and say in the long run, it's an investment and we can move forward from here."

With crews still working to finish what they started last year, other companies are looking at this mega site. "We are already out marketing the site, already have some nibbles on the line and we'll continue to market it," said Johnson. "The money has been spent but it has not been wasted."

Sen. Johnson won't tell us who is looking into this megasite until the state has it in writing.

Reported by: Nicole Teigen, nteigen@wtoc.com

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