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Action News Investigates Ballpark Plan

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Updated: 2/17 6:45 pm
MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Action News investigates how a local county government plans to spend your tax dollars.

Some Clay County leaders want to spend up to $19 million to build ballparks in hopes of bringing in new business. The county has been working on this project for nearly two years. But now, there are questions about how they got to this point.

The area in Clay County for this project may not look like much now, but Clay County has big dreams of turning the lot into big-time baseball fields that officials say will generate big time money. Some argue the only thing big about the plan is the price tag. "$19 million is a lot of money that's going to a baseball field," said taxpayer Joe Riley.

Riley lives in Clay County and he's not on board with using his tax money to build the project. He filed a complaint with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, saying county leaders aren't doing everything on the up and up. He alleged secret meetings and deals being done behind closed doors. "I feel like they believe they don't have a need to have taxpayers at meetings," said Riley.

According to the investigative report we obtained, FDLE looked into the issue, but will not comment on an actual investigation by any agency. We took our questions to county commissioners. Only Commissioner Ronnie Robinson agreed to go on camera. Robinson says there are still too many questions about the project. "You could call it secret dealings," said Robinson.

He says some county leaders have already used $5,000 of taxpayer's money to tour a Big League Dreams facility in 2011. The question he has is will taxpayers get a return on their $19 million investment.

Action News put that question to the test. We called cities around the country that have these facilities. There are 11 of them. Only two called us back, Chino Hills, California  and League City, Texas.

Chino Hills made $5 million in the last 10 years from the stadium. It costs taxpayers there $14 million d to build. League City made $2.25 million since it opened in 2005. It cost $22 million to build.

We went to a Clay County Development Authority meeting to try and ask questions to the people heading up the project. Greg Clary gave only a brief update and he wouldn't give us an interview. 

One taxpayer says that's just more proof to back up his claims, this big-time baseball field shouldn't be built. "It's gambling with taxpayers money," said Riley.

Clay County originally signed a licensing agreement with Big League Dreams for this project. They then opened up a request for bid proposals to any company. So far, only Big League Dreams has submitted a bid, and the deadline was 5 p.m. Monday.

The Clay County Development Authority is scheduled to meet Wednesday and discuss the bid.
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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Action News Jacksonville

axollot - 2/18/2014 12:04 PM
0 Votes
There are other companies that build similar ball parks, lack of a competitive bid goes against Florida law. Which also wasn't mentioned. A lot was left out of this piece but better than nothing and better than the sales pitches we've seen previously.

GrammyBoomFire - 2/17/2014 11:49 PM
1 Vote
Isn't this putting the cart before the horse .....Clay County needs to focus on bringing REAL jobs here. Sports are great as add-on services to the community, but hotels, eateries, and the like provide mainly lower end jobs. Large corporations that could benefit from having satellite offices and production facilities on this side of the river should be courted. Everyday, thousands of skilled and professional Clay Countians traverse northward to work. The greatest resource Clay County has is in it's people and their talents. That talent is what you should be focusing on to entice solid business and growth .... "Field of Dreams" was a great movie, but let's get a REAL DREAM of good job opportunities for our citizens first. Time for Clay County to stop being nothing more than a bedroom community and to "get smart" !!

SimpleMan - 2/17/2014 10:02 PM
0 Votes
Mr. Riley, your correct. I was referring to the Board. Some commissioners were key architects of this arrangement, but to my knowledge it never came before the board for 7 months.

JJRILEY68 - 2/17/2014 9:20 PM
1 Vote
Actually "simpleman" Clay County WAS involved with this before seven months ago, at least two County Commissioners... Travis Cummings and Robert Bradley were involved in bring this project to the CCDA BEFORE December of 2011 so YES the "County" was involved before "7 months later"....

SimpleMan - 2/17/2014 9:04 PM
0 Votes
A few corrections. Clay County Development Authority received the unsolicited proposal. It is not a 'Bid' of any kind. Also, CCDA entered into the license agreement 12/2011. Clay County was not involved with this deal until 7 months later.

JJRILEY68 - 2/17/2014 7:44 PM
2 Votes
There is also a investigation by the State Attys office that has been on going since about July 2013. back room meetings with Private business, property owners and two Government agencies in Clay County without Public Oversite and involvement..... I wonder how much "back scratching" has been going on in these back-room meetings!!!!
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