2/12/2014 1:53:00 PM City Hall decision seriously flawed
Heinz E. Eller, Rice Lake
The subject of this letter is the decision taken by the City Council in its Jan. 28 session regarding disposition of the old city hall building. The council had before it two proposals-one an offer from Sterling Bank to purchase the building for $75,000, demolish it and turn the vacant lot into much needed downtown parking; the other an offer from Snap Fitness to purchase the building for $1, renovate it and turn it into a fitness center. The Sterling proposal would require the city to finance the building demolition and preparation of the space for the parking lot paving. Sterling Bank would underwrite the paving cost. Total investment for the city, based on the city manager's analysis, would be $96,000. Total investment for the city under the Snap proposal would be $59,000, based upon the same analysis. After adding in projected revenues over a 10-year period, the net benefit to the city would be $25,000 with the Sterling proposal, and $30,000 under the Snap proposal or essentially no difference. The council in closed session voted 4 to 3 for the Snap proposal, Councilmember Schwab recused himself to avoid appearance of a conflict of interest, as he owns another fitness center within the city. In my judgment, the council decision was shortsighted and seriously flawed for the following reasons. The Sterling proposal was basically a "bird in the hand." The $75,000 will be received upfront. The city would have the money and the much needed additional downtown parking as well. The Snap proposal is sheer conjecture; in other words not two birds in the bush but maybe one. The income from the Snap proposal is predicated on presumed property tax revenue. I asked, whose crystal ball is clear enough to forecast what will or may happen 5-10 years down the road. That presumed tax revenue is total speculation; one doesn't even know if Snap will be in business 5 or 10 years in the future, but we do know the Sterling parking places will be there. The financial analysis is flawed because the only economic value it places on the Sterling parking places is the $9,000 property tax revenue. Surely 40 off-street, downtown parking places have more economic value over 10 years than $9,000. If not, why do we have any downtown off-street parking at all? Therefore, the $25,000 estimated cost benefit of the Sterling proposal is seriously underestimated, The old city hall building is across the street from the public library. Anyone who uses the facility knows that parking is already a problem. Snap estimates it will require 38 parking spaces for users; but their proposal provides for only 35. Other estimates suggest that the actual need, based upon the services Snap intends to provide, is in the 40 to 50 range, creating an even greater problem. And none of this factors in additional library parking requirements if the library facility expansion goes forward. At the same session, the council appropriated $5,000 for the Place Maker Program, a Northwest Wisconsin regional program in which cities would enhance a number of community assets/places to attract more visitors and induce them to stay longer and spend more at local businesses. Surely the existing or enhanced library facility will be one of these places, another reason why additional parking will be critical. By moving forward with the Place Maker program, the council is, on one hand, beginning to fund a program that it hopes will result in a demand for additional downtown parking, while, on the other hand, opting for a program that will decrease public parking. That appears illogical. Based upon the foregoing points, it would seem incumbent upon the council to revisit the decision taken at the Jan. 28 session and, hopefully, arrive at a more logically thought-out plan for the future use of the old city hall property. Perhaps that second look might best be done after the election of the new council in April. - - - -
Posted: Thursday, February 20, 2014
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How does the City Library expect to expand when they do not expand parking, but have taken a row for themselves, for city library employees. What percentage of people use the city library for internet games vs. books? City Parking formerly at the Moose Club next to the lake was lost for downtown. The average business owner ends up parking there car out front of someone else business... How do you expect current businesses to grow when you keep taking down town parking away and they are subject to TIF, Tax Incremental Fund, an additional tax imposed on downtown businesses to fund the Main Street Association! that organizes volunteers for flowers and trees that block the customers views of the businesses...