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Thursday, February 04, 2010

From White Elephant To Hot Potato To Boondoggle

While watching last week's Janesville city council discussion about the ice arena, I was both flabbergasted and insulted by at least two council members readiness to throw Janesville taxpayers under a bus, or to imply that tough economic times means taxpayers must expect to sacrifice even more.

Nearly every council member spoke about "time" and how they need to do all they can to get the ball rolling on a new ice arena. After listening to the back and forth banter, it turns out it's the council who can't track the the ice arena fast enough. As far as selling the naming rights to the public facility were concerned, the council refused to vote on the proposal at hand and instead pushed the matter back onto the city manager.

The City Manager Eric Levitt in my opinion gave the quote of the session when he said this about literally giving the donor group $2 million dollars to build and maintain their own facility, just so the city can unload the entire boondoggle...
City Council Meeting:
"it would save long-term the city many dollars operationally, and save the city many dollars capital-wise long-term, so the investment would pay back the city over the next twenty years more so than if the city ran the facility." -- Janesville City Manager Eric Levitt
In short, the city would be better off giving away $2 million and walking away from the ice arena altogether. That was quite a statement.

Of course, the hand-out reeks from one end to the other. I don't really know where to begin. Should I start that the suggestion is actually an admission that the city council screwed up royally when they approved of that totally obnoxious concessions/advertizing lease with the for-profit WHP?

Or that despite all the "community" talk from the private donors, none of these proposals would even exist had the council not approved the WHP lease in the first place? It all revolves around the WHP group. That is a widely held observation.

Or, how about the idea that in order to save around $1 to $1.5 million to renovate the current community ice arena into a state-of-the-art facility, the city will tear it down and literally give a private group of wealthy individuals $2 million in taxpayer cash AND a parcel of land worth approximately $1 million to go build their own arena?

Was this entire scheme hatched just so the city can save $1 million on land acquisition for a new fire station? If it is, someone needs to tell the administration and council to please... stop trying to save us money! All the while the city loses a community facility when public use was just beginning to peak before the Jets arrived on the scene.

Or how about the thought that the new arena will be property tax free while it's primary tenant is a for-profit business group?

Or how about the idea that the private group will charge the residents/taxpayers for usage and keep all proceeds?

Or how about the thought that the naming rights to the proposed city owned facility and ice sheets were worth about a million to the private donors, while the taxpayers $2 million will be lucky to buy itself a plaque on the wall.

Or how about the math that $2 million should be able to buy Janesville taxpayers $50,000 worth of skate time for 40 years. Hmmmm, at $500 per event, the privately owned and operated facility can hold 100 open skate events per year for Janesville residents - for free.

Or how about the fact that had a senator, congressman or state legislator propose a $2 million earmark for a special interest group to build and privatize their own ice arena, they would likely be burned at the stake. But at least they'd pay property taxes.

Or about the fact that while the city of Janesville contemplates giving away $2 million to a hockey club, Janesville public schools are asking for donations to meet its bills.

Or how about the notion that as soon as it seems a public asset or community facility might show any promise of turning a profit, the asset is turned over to private interests?

Gee, where should I begin?

More Ice Arena Fumbles

It's a "good ol'boys club."

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