Monday, December 08, 2008

Rec Center vs. Arena - and the county budget

The Lucas County Commissioners have announced that they will no longer be booking events at the Lucas County Rec Center, though will they honor events scheduled there through June, 2009.

(WSPD story and audio, and Toledo Blade story)

The reason, they claim, is financial. The buildings, including the roofs, need between $750,000 to $1 million in repairs and, with the County facing declining revenue and laying off people, there is no money to pay for it.

Now, the funds for making these repairs would come from the County's Capital Improvement Program (CIP) - not from the general fund which is where the layoffs are coming from. And I know for a fact that the repairs at the Rec Center were on the CIP plan when I was a commissioner. Usually, items get placed on the list and move up as other projects are completed.

The problem isn't that the County doesn't have the money - it's that they're spending it elsewhere - namely, on the new arena.

Does anyone besides me find it rather disconcerting that the County cannot maintain the Rec Center, but they're building a new arena which will also have to be maintained?

Does anyone besides me wonder why we're spending our CIP money on an arena when we've not yet completed the items on the CIP list?

Does anyone besides me wonder where the County will get the money to repay the $18.5 million they've already borrowed to pay for the arena - or where they're going to find the additional $25 million in extra costs (original cost estimate was $80 million and is now $105 million)?

Is it likely that needs detailed in the CIP are being pushed aside in order to construct a shiny new arena? And, if so, is this the right priority?

Each person may have their own answers to these questions, but the fact that they aren't being discussed in public should send a warning to all County residents.

8 comments:

Carol said...

Maggie -

This is just another indicator that the priorities of the governing bodies of Lucas County are horribly skewed.

Just like the schools. Don't maintain them. Oh no! Let them fall down around you and - VOILA! - a reason to build something new that will still fall down due to lack of maintenance.

Lucas County/City of Toledo adopted the disposable lifestyle at some point. Rather than take care of what they have, they just let it deteriorate and then cry that "we need new (fill in the blank)"

Yep - it's politics as usual.

So sad.

The A-Hole Lawyer said...

Two of my many concerns about the new arena are access and affordability. Most ice arena's struggle to fill ice time unless -because of a lack of choices - there is a very high demand. To counter this problem, most small arena's can be rented by the public (often on short notice) for the going per-hour rate, by people who wish to play pick-up hockey, broom ball, etc.

Within the NW Ohio hockey community, that could be accomplished at the old sports arena. For $10-15 bucks a player, people, churches etc. could grab some afternoon or late night ice time for shinny.

I don't see the new sports arena being 1) that accessible to the public, or 2) affordable for such purposes.

I have never been a big patron of events at the LCRC, but, I bet its a lot more affordable and accessible than the new arena will be.

TAHL

Roman said...

This is too predictable. The dim bulbs that masquarade as political leaders are marginal at best. The idea of city/county planning is an oxymoron. A large problem is the same people keep getting elected, cycle after cycle. There is no glamour/hype in maintenance, but you can get your picture on TV and in one of America's newspapers if you have a ground breaking/grand opening of something new.

Mad Jack said...

This situation wouldn't make any sense unless it would cost more to maintain the existing building over the next ten years, or someone is getting paid off.

Corruption doesn't necessarily involve an actual cash transaction. This could be the sight of a new building and being able to say, "I was county commissioner when that was built. I built it!". That adds a kind of immortality to the commissioner that he or she wouldn't normally have, and is much more tangible than truthfully stating, "I was county commissioner during the greater depression and managed to get Lucas County out of the depression in better shape than we were in the beginning." Of course, you'd have to follow that with an explanation a whole lot more complex than "It took ten years to build and cost $125 million."

So here is my question to you, Ms. Thurber. If you were a Commissioner and had two other Commissioners that would enthusiastically cooperate with your plans, how would you avert this economic train wreck? Could the damage that's been done already be repaired?

Mad Jack said...

Another question. The original estimate was $85 million and is now $105 million. Why does the county (and the taxpayer) have to compensate for lousy estimates? Why isn't the construction company held liable for this kind of thing?

Maggie Thurber said...

MadJack - the original estimates were from the consultants - not the construction manager. Lots of things changed (like the 'green' efforts which add lots of costs) which resulted in the much higher number. Most of those changes were political - not essential - in nature. Additionally, there are all those consulting fees that have to be paid.

As for what I would do? Well, I wouldn't be paying for a public information officer/liaison, that's for sure - especially not when I was laying off others.

If there had been two other people on the BCC to support my iniatives, we wouldn'g have given out 3% pay increases and signing bonuses over the last several years, we wouldn't have approved tax increases in the levies, we wouldn't have had COSI on the ballot a third time and we would have been making sure that the Sheriff actually lives within his budget, rather than going over it by millions every year.

Additionally, we'd have set, as a goal, the lowering of our sales tax in order to attract people to purchasing in the county - and not raising our hotel/motel tax to fund an arena.

We'd have cut out all the non-essential expenditures (like 'community funding'), supported more automation of functions/tasks, and performed only mandated functions. And we'd hold the line on other elected officials (through their budgets) to do the same.

If those had been done, the County wouldn't be in as much of a financial crunch as it is today, and we'd be weathering this economic downturn much better.

Those are just some of the ideas - many of which can still be pursued, but the damange of not doing them in the past is part of the legacy to be overcome.

By the way, I suggested shortly after being elected that the county should start then looking at ways to reduce our costs so we could, in the future, lower our sales tax. I received a scathing editoral against such 'foolishness' and every other elected official used that editorial as a reason for not even considering the idea.

Could you imagine what the difference might have been if they'd said it was a wonderful idea we should all get behind?

Tim Higgins said...

Maggie,

This is another wonderful example of county math, but more importantly, it is an opportunity.

The commissioners will refuse to maintain a building that still has usefulness, deciding that such money can be put to better use. So be it. Let us remind these commissioners of this and of the comments made by some of them regarding the United Way building and the stewardship of its leaders while it is under their care. Let them explain this conscious lapse to voters in upcoming elections for any office.

Hooda Thunkit said...

Maggie,

”Does anyone besides me find it rather disconcerting that the County cannot maintain the Rec Center, but they're building a new arena which will also have to be maintained?

Does anyone besides me wonder why we're spending our CIP money on an arena when we've not yet completed the items on the CIP list?

Does anyone besides me wonder where the County will get the money to repay the $18.5 million they've already borrowed to pay for the arena - or where they're going to find the additional $25 million in extra costs (original cost estimate was $80 million and is now $105 million)?

Is it likely that needs detailed in the CIP are being pushed aside in order to construct a shiny new arena? And, if so, is this the right priority?'


This doesn't surprise me one bit, for “We the Sheeple” (a.k.a. The lowly taxpayers) have infinite funds and pockets that can be picked, at will, by Toledo's mayor, Toledo's City Council AND the Toledo (owned/controlled) County Commissioners.

We earn ans save and they (our local royalty) spend as freely as they wish.

The only little hurdle (granted, it is a small one) is for them to justify yet another reason for taking our money and the exact method (excuse) to impose yet another tax to get it.

Granted, “We the Sheeple/Taxpayers” apparently have yet to meet a tax that we didn't instantly fall in love with, so this “problem” is minimal, all we need is the justification, no matter how lame.

It must be nice at the very top of the food chain; wanting and naming, followed by reaching into other people's pockets (OPP) and harvesting/spending at will. . .

Remember, every politico NEEDS to build their own monument to themselves and the only way to maintain YOUR monument is to remain in office.

No onne cares to maintain somebody else's old monuments...

Google Analytics Alternative