I’m grateful to Winter Haven Chamber Chief Bob Gernert for correcting commenter Strimarche, who claimed the USFP campus isn’t actually in the Lakeland city limits. It saved me the work of documenting it myself. Thanks.
But what I really wanted from Mr. Gernert was a commitment to push for funding from the Winter Haven city government and other East Polk governments who have talked about how this is a countywide campus.
Bob Gernert, you’ll appear before your commission to urge a $1.8 million donation, right? Consider this a question I’d like answered, Bob. You can just do it in comments. Don’t worry, I won’t hold my breath.
Much to his credit, Bob did respond, but he never answered my question. Here are the key points of his response:
What Mr. Townsend’s shrill rationale does not take into account is that the proposed HSR station would be on Williams property — not USF Poly’s. Lakeland did indeed provide $5 million to the new campus but they have paid no such stipend to the Williams Company – hence making the argument that Winter Haven (or any other Polk community) should have to “pony up” to have a voice in the site selection a bit lame…
…The remainder of Mr. Townsend’s tirade I will not dignify with a response. I can assure you that Winter Haven is a fine community as is Lakeland and all of our neighbors.
He also had some boilerplate about cooperation that you can read for yourself back on the older post.
Anyway, as you can see, Mr. Gernert’s not going to “dignify” my very simple question about asking Winter Haven city government for money for USFP. I think we can assume that’s a no.
Now, as for his argument about my lameness, let’s roll over to Bob’s Winter Haven Chamber site and look at the title of the blog post he wrote on Feb. 2.
Why, it’s “Chamber Advocates USF Polytechnic Rail Station.” Huh. That’s funny. I would have thought it would be “Chamber Advocates Williams Co. Rail Station.” Must be a mistake.
Now look at the text of the Haven Chamber statement contained in that post:
“The Board of Directors of the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce supports the placement of a Polk County station for high-speed rail at the eastern terminus of the Polk Parkway. This site will ensure convenient access for students at USF Polytechnic as well as serve all of Polk County from a more central location. More than 50% of Polk’s population resides east of the Polk Parkway. This location would also better serve as a future connector for intermodal transfer to Legoland Florida opening in 2011.”
I’ll let my readers decide if Gernert’s Clintonian wordplay about the station really belonging to Williams, an argument he never made until someone called him out about the statement above, approaches my lameness.
If there was no USF Poly, no one would be considering a station anywhere near this cow field. Now that there is, thanks to the state, Polk County, and Lakeland, Winter Haven wants to use it as remote parking for Legolland and make it harder for Lakeland’s existing citizens to use the HSR system. And their argument is that more than half of Polk’s population is in East Polk, making USFP an countywide asset. Fine. Again, fund it that way. Money where your mouths are.
Over 50 years I think the USFP location is probably the right call. But it’s close. And it could be a disaster if the state and private donors to the university don’t follow through with support. I think if Bob Gernert and Marshall Goodman decided to appear before East Polk City commissions asking for investment, that might have a significant effect. After all, more than half Polk’s population lies in East Polk, right?