Jeff Ackerman: Pennies from heaven to the president, governor and down to the Supes | TheUnion.com

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Jeff Ackerman: Pennies from heaven to the president, governor and down to the Supes

More than a couple of you have noticed that the county is building a new bus stop in Grass Valley for … I swear … $1 million. And before I get into the details of this million-dollar bus stop, yes, it’s the same county that has pink-slipped more than a few employees and cut services designed to keep us safe and secure.

But it’s not all the county’s fault. A good chunk of the million is coming from the bankrupt state and some is coming from the bankrupt federal government. All of it … no matter what they tell us … is coming from taxpayers. They just use other terms to make us believe the money is actually a gift from God … straight from Him to the president, to the governor and down to the Board of Supervisors.

If you’ve seen drawings of the proposed bus stop (they are calling it a transfer station, which is pretty much the same as a bus stop, but more elaborate), it’s very nice. It has a roof, wheelchair ramp and a place for a bus or two to park. It even has some grass out front and a place to go potty while you wait for the bus. The restroom is 20-feet-by-10-feet with a 12-foot wheelchair ramp sitting on 1.4 acres.

It looks like something you and I could probably build for $150,000 (high end) if the government would just get the hell out of the way.

For reference we need look no further than that rest stop up on Donner Summit, the one they have been working on since I had hair. The one that is being funded by the Reinvestment Act Funds they told us were designed to put every American back to work … building toilets at $10 million per flush.

All they really needed to do up there was plant a few roadside trees and I was good to go. Nothing like being stuck in bumper-to-bumper snow chain traffic without a toilet.

If you’ve browsed the Real Estate listings lately (maybe to encourage a healthy cry) you’ll see you can buy quite a nice house today for $1 million. That house will likely have lots of toilets and a roof and maybe even 10 acres in the yard, with granite countertops, swimming pool and a fireplace in the master closet.

Chances are great that house would have room enough in the driveway for three Gold Country Stage buses and a boat.

If you didn’t want to buy an existing home for your million, you could build your own today for maybe $190 per square foot, which means … let me check … you could build a 5,263-square-foot mansion with room enough for every single passenger Gold Country Stage serves. Who would want to ever leave a place like that and jump on a bus?

Or … let’s say you already have a house and would rather spend the million on a homeless shelter. There has been a lot of talk about the need for people to have a roof over their heads when it’s 20 degrees outside. I’ll bet we could build a shelter large enough to house every single homeless person in town, so long as the government stays clear of any part of the planning or construction.

In fact, I’ll bet the bus stop eventually becomes a shelter for the homeless. It beats the hell out of a cardboard box. I’m looking forward to seeing what the vandals do to that million-dollar baby and can’t wait to check back in two years.

It could be you don’t need a house at all and would rather spend the million on something more practical … like a car. You could buy 43 Prius hybrids and give them to the bus riders, with the condition that they give a ride to three of their transportation-strapped friends.

Then we could shut down Gold Country Stage and save the hundreds of thousands of dollars it is losing. We’re getting a million-dollar bus stop at a time when none of us can afford to go anywhere anyway on a bus system that is broke and on the verge of its own economic collapse.

Public transportation in a rural area doesn’t pencil out and never will. Last I checked it was costing the government $4 or $5 for every 50 cents it charges a passenger. And those costs aren’t dropping. I once asked why the school bus system and Gold Country Stage couldn’t create a partnership that would save both some money and you would have thought I’d asked them to make fire with two wet sticks.

That kind of thinking is not within the realm of government, which is why there are 3,000 federal and state agencies and probably why our credit rating is lower than Kurdistan’s.

Might even be a good idea to send the money back. Lord knows the county, state and feds could use a few extra bucks today. I’ll bet the county could hire four or five deputies with that kind of dough. Might even be able to add a few hours to the libraries, or perhaps allow the district attorney to finance the prosecution of a few more white-collar crooks, or maybe even feed some people who can’t afford to buy groceries today.

I’m sure the state could use that million to help fund some of those unfunded pensions … the ones that will eventually cause the collapse of this House Of Cards we call Ca-Lee-For-Knee-Ah.

But it’s not going to happen. The paperwork chain is at its end (I have a 44-page traffic study on the project if anyone is bored) and once that bus gets going there’s no stopping it.

The system has gone completely crazy and all we can do is sit back and enjoy the million-dollar ride.

Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. His column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at 477-4299, jackerman@theunion.com, or 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.