The saga with the $25 million taxpayer funded fishing pier at Nags Head continues to drag on… Not only have we seen overblown job creation numbers, the secret plans for additional taxpayer-funded piers, and a company owned by Sen. Marc Basnight (D-Dare) receiving a state contract to build a portion of the pier. Now we learn that not all revenues from the pier will be returned to the taxpayers, without whose money, the project wouldn’t have been built.
Revenues from weekly and annual fishing passes as well as from the bait, tackle and gift shop will be designated to the North Carolina Aquariums Society, the non-profit organization partnered with the Aquariums. While revenue from daily or walk-on passes, facility rentals and educational programs will be returned to the state and taxpayers even though all positions at the pier will be filled by state employees. So we the taxpayers are paying for the staff, but a non-profit organization is getting the benefit of their labor.
Aquariums Division Director David Griffin expressed that he “preferred” this arrangement simply because it allowed unfettered access to funds without the burden of working through the state purchasing office or abiding by state bidding laws. He could simply request funds from the Society and award a contract to a vendor of choice.
Griffin, a state employee, is behaving much like a teenager with his parent’s credit card. He fails to understand that current state bidding laws are enacted to ensure fair prices and competition, instead preferring to hand-pick vendors and spend whatever funds necessary to accomplish his goals.
This astonishing lack of oversight is simply one problem with this form of public-private partnership, where public funds are used for private gain. If state funds are used to operate the pier, then the State should be the beneficiary of the revenue generated. Yet, this is simply not the case.
Funds accumulated for the Society may also be used for the additional piers planned in Emerald Isle and Carolina Beach.