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Thursday, September 16, 2010

City Officials Update Privileged Ice Arena Group

Headlines here!…read all about it! City Council extends $2 million to privileged leisure group!!… read all about it!!… Food pantry use on the rise while donations are down!!.. Get your news now and read all about it... read all about it!! School board member says worst economy since Hoover, community can’t afford teachers!! Headlines here!…read all about it! City Council extends $2 million to privileged….

Ahh, life is good …iddin it?

Don't look now folks, but Janesville city officials at Monday's city council meeting appeared to be testing the winds when they openly discussed the idea of giving away city facility naming rights so a privileged group of city hall insiders can sell it in order to help meet their $2 million commitment to build a private-partnered ice rink - instead of the city leasing the intellectual property as a means of paying down the taxpayer's burden and subsidy for the current arena. Apparently, the fund-raising group ran out of their own cookies and donuts to sell - they now want ours.

The city manager favors the idea because he considers the private group an extension of the city's efforts to raise capital for a new arena. Council member Russ Steeber agreed.

Other tidbits from the Monday's Janesville city council meeting:

* The city manager said the location of the current ice rink is a sufficient, but not an ideal location for a new fire station.

* Council member Yuri Rashkin noted that no representative from the fund-raising group bothered to attend the council meeting. Instead, the city's ice arena advisory Committee Chairman, Steve Walker, who also happens to be a VP of the Janesville Hockey Club apparently spoke on their behalf. The city's ice arena advisory committee by the way, is weighted down with pro-hockey arena expansion advocates - and not by chance. City officials want it tilted that way.

Despite mentioning at least four solid reasons why the new arena project should not move forward, among them location problems, unknown costs, the city budget, the fund-raisers shortfall and the declining local economy - Rashkin tossed those concerns to the wind and voted to re-commit $2 million and extend the group's deadline to Dec. 31, 2010.

* Overheard through the chatter that 10 acres of vacant land in the city should cost $350,000 despite earlier fear-promoting remarks from the city administration and council that vacant land for a new fire station would cost $1 million or more. This lower figure brings the cost of land acquisition for a new fire station more in line with reality. In addition, why the city would need 10 acres of land for a new fire station is anybody's guess.

* That the cost of an additional sheet of ice for an arena expansion in Eau Claire is pegged at $5.5 million, which is more than double the costs projected for Janesville's second sheet. Eau Claire's expansion figure calls into question all of the cost projections for Janesville's new ice arena boondoggle.

* GOP operative and businessman Bill McCoshen made a request to clarify and change portions of a sugar-coated lease that allows his business, the Janesville Jets junior hockey team, to skip out on paying the office rental fee at the city facility if the average attendance falls below 600. He wants the contract to read only paid attendance will be counted with the trade-off lowered to 500.

* The council approved McCoshen's request without having an accurate record of paid and unpaid attendance figures or establishing a set of rules to follow for promotional and free give-away tickets. As it now stands, the Jets could free ticket-give-away their way out of paying monthly rent.

One thing I have to add is the commentary and vote by council member Tom McDonald. He was the only member to get it right and vote against the $2 million/deadline extension boondoggle (I think this is the third deadline). Bravo!
Janesville Gazette Editorial Excerpt:
(Titled - Ice Arena Plan Makes Sense)
Besides, by pledging $2 million in tax money in hopes of getting a new rink, the city could save up to $1 million in repairs to the current rink and another $1 million by not having to buy land for a new central fire station.
The Conservatives new fiscal conservatism - you have to demolish a $1 million facility and SPEND another $2 million in order to eventually save $1 million? The Gazette's been regurgitating and pawning off those distortions from ice arena advocates since the beginning to help sell the new facility.

First of all, renovating the current community ice rink facility is said to cost about one million which means the city won't spend the entire $2 million they set aside. This means the city saves one million. That's not too complicated to understand. The city can then look for a new fire station location equally not as ideal as the Beloit/Tyler location for probably $250,000 or less. Remember, they don't need ten acres. Plus, the city won't pave over the southside green field they originally earmarked for the new ice arena. We end up saving about $750,000 that we can actually hold and count. The city (without a middle-man) can then bid away the naming rights lease for an annual paydown subsidy fee. Start the bidding at $100,000 annual. Win-win-win.

The ice arena fund-raising group, God bless their hearts, claim they have raised $700,000 of which they could give $350,000 to pay for the latest sound and lighting system, jumbotron, etc. for the newly renovated community ice rink. We could post a plaque in their honor in the ice arena main lobby. The other $350,000 could be divided among ECHO, Salvation Army, community food pantries and homeless shelters. This way they will have partnered their good will efforts for the entire community - just like they've always intended.


Anonymous said...

The one thing I don't get is how the council seems to turn over every nickel and dime for the city service budget makes me think it's all for show. But as you wrote, throws fiscal caution to wind regarding a non-essential like an ice rink.

Anonymous said...

When it's all said and done, the 2-sheet ice arena and new fire station will cost $16 million, give or take a mill.

Lou Kaye said...

Anon 8:33 AM, the council's fiscal exactitude does appear to be class based.

Is the give-or-take a mill on the $16 million the one mill the Gazette says we've saved? LOL

Anonymous said...

Will McCoshen run again for a state office in the near future? He's definitely got that GOP "never ever lobbied government for special treatment or a subsidy" going for him.

Anonymous said...

A single sheet ice rink in Dubuque, Iowa just opened that cost $7.1 million when compared to the one being discussed for $4 million here in Janesville. Somebody here is fudging the numbers. But using those figures, by investing $1 million into our current one-sheet ice arena we will save over $6 million - if saving money is a priority in Janesville.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the 4 Million does not include the cost of the land. That would bump the cost up to over 7 million, but they don't discuss the two things in one total - 7 million would definitely get some attention.

Yuri said...

For all those listed here and other reasons, I am aware of no way why the new ice arena project will move forward. However, I voted in support of the deadline, which I strongly expect the council will enforce. This project needs to be done and over with not because the council killed it but because there isn't enough support in the community for it; support as it is expressed and measured in dollar signs.

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