One of my best friends, Doug, lives across the street. He and I love to discuss politics, sitting on either his or my back patio. As soon as I hear Doug utter the line, "when you stop and analyze it," I know I'm in for some hard core logic that's difficult to argue against.
So let's stop and analyze the proposed funding that City Staff has developed for constructing the Mesquite Indoor Sports Complex and see what we come up with. See MCJ story Staff Proposes Raiding Department Budgets for MISC Funding
Then, we'll also take a look at operating and maintenance costs that no one in City Hall has yet to answer questions about.
First, let's zero in on the Vehicle/Equipment Replacement Fund that we are already raiding to the tune of $1.9 million to help pay back Nevada Community Solutions' $4 million dollar deposit. That happened during last year's budget hearings because Staff did not, let me repeat, did not put NCS's money into a separate escrow account in 2007 as they were legally required to. Now, they want to take another $250,000 from that fund to help pay for the MISC.
I sat through those budget hearings, all 13 hours, last May. I believed City Staff when they said they had trimmed department budgets as closely as they dare.
Really? Perhaps I won't be so naïve during the upcoming budget hearings this year.
So what happened between last year and today that one fund has so much excess we can pull the money out to pay for our dreams?
But let's ask Bill Tanner, Public Works Director, and his department staff how they feel. I imagine they will tell you they worked hard to conserve their money so they could make ends meet. We have no evidence to the contrary so we'll go with that. But if the truth be told, I bet they're pretty upset that all their hard work is for naught in their department as they watch their money float away.
Let's move to the Street Maintenance Fund. Out of the blue, Interim City Manager Kurt Sawyer announced the City was receiving an extra, unbudgeted $541,000 from the Regional Transportation Commission for street maintenance. In a budgetary sleight of hand, the City can now pull $250,000 out of that account to help pay for the tent.
Well good for us. But what if we use both pieces of money for the intended purpose - street maintenance. We could cut a few more slots in the medians on Mesquite and Sandhill Boulevards and make it easier for customers to reach our existing businesses. Mayor Mark Wier has mentioned that goal several times as a way to make Mesquite more 'business friendly.'
I'm not an expert on street maintenance, but I'll guess that $541,000 plus $250,000 could cut a lot of ingress/egress slots in the medians that businesses have been battling since before they were built.
And then Staff wants to take $100,000 out of the Park Fund to help pay for the MISC. This one I could almost stretch a justification out of until I remember that a group of business owners and residents associated with the Mesquite Community Development Corporation have been discussing a way to fund a couple small parks that could dress up the areas along our downtown boulevards. They've kicked around the idea of adding some pretty planters along our main streets and give them some color and character. That $100,000 could be a big help
Nah. Let's use the money to build another complex way far away from the rest of Mesquite that we'll be subsidizing for years to come.
Yes, subsidizing to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars every year.
If you read the second part of yesterday's story, you saw a report from Bryan Dangerfield, Mesquite Athletics Director, in which he reported that it cost the City, no, it cost you, $4,600, $3,300, and $4,300 to support three different soccer tournaments in Mesquite. That's on outdoor fields that have relatively little operating and maintenance costs. Did you notice that most of the cost was for electricity and lighting?
How much did the City charge the Utah Youth Soccer Association (UYSA) for using our fields? Did we get enough to cover our costs? We're not talking 'profit,' just our costs.
No. Per tournament we only received $2,500, according to Terry Ogden, local coordinator for the UYSA. That means we only got back 53 percent of our costs for one tournament, 57 percent for another, and a whopping 76 percent on the third tournament.
Not a problem. If the Recreation budget runs dry, just take it out of the Vehicle/Equipment Maintenance fund.
If we can't even cover our costs for soccer tournaments without a dome tent, how in the world do we expect to cover the much more expensive costs of the indoor facility? But, alas, we don't know what those costs will be because City Staff hasn't released any of those numbers. We're not even sure they've figured them out yet.
Do we really expect soccer teams will leave their backyard soccer fields in northern Utah to travel all the way to Mesquite in the summer and pay the huge fees we'll have to charge just to cover 53 percent of our costs for operating the indoor facility? It won't be just $2,500 we'll need. It will be a lot more than that.
I checked the UYSA Web site and they have a tournament scheduled almost every weekend through the end of the year at their own fields. A couple of them are scheduled in July for Park City. Do we really expect parents, coaches, referees, and players to pack it up and head to Mesquite in July instead of Park City just to play in an indoor facility?
Really, do we?
As part of tonight's City Council agenda item, the background material says, "Nevada Revised Statues require that a Design-Build project be estimated to cost at least $5 million dollars. Consequently, if the City does not have $5 million, it calls into question the City's ability to do a Design-Build project. If the project bids ultimately come in less than $5 million, that is acceptable. The City cannot manipulate the bids (taking items out that were part of the original $5 million estimate) to artificially get the price below $5 million."
So $5 million it is. But that's just for construction costs. What about the operating and maintenance costs for the facility? No one is talking about that - yet. But it's probably even more important than the one time construction costs. Where will that money come from? Can we have that discussion before the Councilmen vote to go on down this road?
I don't even want to think about floating new bonds to pay for the new facility. That's one credit card we need to cut up and throw away.
So Doug, you're right. When you stop and analyze it, it just doesn't make good economic sense.