HARRISBURG – After news broke earlier this week that the Wolf administration has housed Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) in the Farm Show Complex and wouldn’t allow lawmakers inside without signing a non-disclosure agreement, a regional tourism organization has put a price tag on it.
To the tune of more than $215 million.
Visit Hershey and Harrisburg is saying there’s been an economic loss to the state and city because the Farm Show Complex has been out of use this entire past year.
Keep in mind, when officials talk about PPE being stored in the complex, it’s not just one room. It sounds like the entire facility is filled with PPE.
Even with the restriction that would have been in place because of COVID, the tourism bureau is sticking with the $215 million figure.
The president of the regional tourism bureau said yesterday the equipment needs to get out of the Farm Show Complex because they have events ready to go, but they can’t be scheduled.
Every month that facility sits full of PPE, there is a loss of millions of dollars, not only in tax revenue to the state and to the city but the hotels and restaurants and other businesses that rely on those events to fuel their income stream.
Add to that the fact that the General Services Administration says they’ll need an additional $6 million just to move the PPE out and you’ve got a mess of epic proportions.
State Representative Jesse Topper, attorney Clint Barkdoll, Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen discussed the Farm Show Complex on the local-live morning radio show, First News, 6am-9am weekdays on 103.7FM.
“That just gives you an idea of the volume of what must be in that building,” Barkdoll said. “Yes, it’s a state facility, yes it saved rental money to put it somewhere else, but of course all of that is overlaid with the big question: why is it even there? Why isn’t this stuff being distributed to schools and to hospitals and facilities that need it? And none of these questions have really been answered at this point.”
Jansen added, “I think this speaks to the point that we cannot leave this in the hands of a few when it comes to an emergency like this. Maybe if the governor had worked with the legislature and there had been more eyes balancing and looking at this stuff then it wouldn’t have just sat there for months getting ruined and taking up this space. They could have found another solution for it.”
Representative Topper brought it home: “If I can be candid, government stinks at logistics. We have begged the administration from the beginning whether it be the vaccine rollout or distribution of PPE, let the private sector do this, do not attempt to do this as government. Logistics need to happen nimbly, dynamically and quickly. Those are three words that do not describe state government.”
Jansen pointed out, “Nothing could emphasize more how important it is for people to come out in the primary and vote for those amendments that will change our state constitution so that one person, one administration, I don’t care whether it’s Republican or Democrat, can have this much power when we’re having something like the COVID pandemic going on. He didn’t bother consulting you guys and that was the big problem.”
Topper said, “The General Assembly has its many, many flaws that have been documented over the years, but at the end of the day, when he brought the General Assembly into the vaccine rollout plan and created the legislative task force, within weeks we went from number 47th in the nation to fifth. That’s not by accident. When you bring more minds to the table, then you will get better results. We begged for that back in the beginning. It did not happen.”
Topper made a point to say the constitutional amendment will not take away the governor’s ability to declare a state of emergency. He can still do that. He can only do it for three weeks, though. That’s 21 days. After that, the legislature has to be involved.
“That’s still a chance if the legislature’s not in session or a natural disaster happens, three weeks is still plenty of time to move and allocate resources under a state of emergency plan,” Topper said. “Republican or Democrat, do we really want an administration to have the ability to legislate through state of emergency month after month, year after year with no end in sight? The answer’s no and that’s why we need to look at what we’re doing here on these constitutional amendments.”