Towns for sale
Aug. 1, 2011
by Ivan Raconteur

One can buy just about anything if one has enough money – including a town.

Recently, the town of Scenic, SD has been in the news. The price of this 46-acre community on the edge of the Badlands has been reduced to $799,000.

It includes a 12-acre town site, 34 surrounding acres, a post office, convenience store, museum, and two homes.

It also includes the Longhorn Saloon and, for reasons probably locked in the shadows of the town’s wild and woolly past, two jails.

This is by no means the only town that is up for sale.

Several other towns are available to the discriminating buyer with deep pockets, and some of them are in desirable locations.

Prices can range from about $700,000 to several million.

There have even been towns for sale listed on eBay.

One can see how the prospect of owning one’s own town could have a certain appeal.

The owner of a town could change the name of the place to whatever he wants.

He could also appoint himself mayor, or king, or sheriff, or even grand poobah.

One could take on the role of secretary of state, ambassador, or anything else that might strike his fancy.

If a person owned his own town, he could invite all of his friends and relatives to live there with him.

That is what I would do. Having one’s family and friends around would be like an extended vacation.

Despite the potential appeal of town ownership, there is another side.

Reports suggest that buying a town can be a lot more expensive and a lot more work than people expect.

Installing and maintaining infrastructure can be a costly proposition.

Then, there is the inconvenience of being a long distance away from things like emergency services and jobs.

I don’t expect to ever have enough dough to buy a town, but it never hurts to be prepared, so I took a moment to consider how I would run things if I owned a town.

The first thing I would do would be to appoint a woman mayor. Women generally run things anyway, so it is about time we give them more of the official leadership roles and give them credit for their accomplishments.

We would operate under our own schedule in my town.

Instead of working five or six days, and having just a day or two to relax, weekends in my town would last five days, and the work week would last two days.

Instead of a city council, my town would have a panel of advisors, each of whom would offer advice based upon his specialty.

This would give us the best information possible on which to base our decisions.

We would have a town doctor, kind of like old Doc Adams on “Gunsmoke.” Doc was always ready to help his neighbors, day or night, and he didn’t complain about making house calls.

Everybody in town would pay a portion of the cost of doc’s salary, and the cost of his clinic and medical supplies. In exchange, all of the residents of the town would receive medical care. There would be no bills for service, and no insurance.

It would be good to have a town scientist, as well, like the professor on “Gilligan’s Island.” There is no limit to the creative solutions we could implement with a smart guy like that on our team.

We would welcome people of all nations and cultures to come to our town. Everyone would have to contribute something in order to be a resident, so there would be no problem with deadbeats.

People would be welcome to learn and speak other languages, but our official language would be English, and that would be the language in which city business was conducted. We would do this not because one language is better than another, but because we wouldn’t want to go through the trouble and expense of printing all of our documents in multiple languages. This is efficiency, not discrimination.

We would have a coffee shop, because I would want it to be a happy town, and coffee makes people happy. At the very least, it makes them less ornery.

I bet we could recruit a specialty chocolate shop to share the space with the coffee shop. That would really put people in a good mood.

Coffee shops also provide a good environment for sharing information. We would probably conduct all of our city meetings right there in the coffee shop, rather than building a fancy meeting room at city hall. Everyone would be more comfortable that way, and it would be good for business.

There are a lot of other ideas I would like to try in this town if I had the chance. I haven’t spent much time thinking about it though, because I can hardly afford to pay attention, much less pay for a town.

Nonetheless, there are bargains out there, and there are likely to be more in the not-so-distant future. As of the last census, only about 16 percent of Americans lived in rural areas. That means a lot more small towns in remote areas will be fading.

They could soon be up for sale, just waiting for the right buyer to come along and turn them into a municipal paradise.

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