Councilman Withelder Discusses Sports Complex, Other Issues-Video
Posting Date: 07/18/2012
By Barbara Ellestad
He's only one of two elected officials sitting on the dais that have been there longer than a year. Councilman Geno Withelder, now in his last year of a four year term, is second only to Councilman Karl Gustaveson for tenure on the Mesquite City Council.
"It's been a pretty interesting ride," Withelder said of the last year with the new Council and Mayor.
When describing the difference between the previous administration and current one, he said, "I think as a group we have a tendency to be a little more analytical. We tear things apart more than we did in the past."
"We have different perspectives," he said about his fellow councilors. "We have very diverse backgrounds. Most of us come from a business background now, where that wasn't the case before. We have a tendency to look at the issues a little differently than we have in the past."
"I'm pleased that we work together," Withelder said as he described what he considered to be the Council's crowning achievement in the last year. "We don't always agree on every issue. We've obviously had some disagreements in the last couple weeks. We have decided, with the direction of the Mayor (Mark Wier) that we can work together as a cohesive unit. I don't have the trepidations that I did before going to Council meetings and not knowing what was going to happen and where things were going to wind up."
His biggest disappointment in the last year was his failure to win more City funding for non-profit groups, mainly in the Arts community. "I tried to make an amendment to the budget to get some money for the Arts community. I probably didn't approach it properly. I didn't work it properly. I think if I would have had a different approach, different wording, it may have had a chance. My motion died for lack of a second and it got nowhere. I'm an advocate for the Arts community and I tried to do something for them."
"Under the budget constraints and economic conditions, everyone at City Hall has really come together and gone above and beyond their call of duty," Withelder said as the discussion turned to issues with personnel and the budget. "The department heads have done a marvelous job."
He thinks staffing levels are thin in a few areas like the business licensing office. "I would like to see the business application process a little more streamlined although we have made some great strides in the last few years. We've made great improvements though.
"Obviously, I'm all for people making money when it's time to make money," Withelder commented about pay adjustments for senior managers in City Hall. "When it isn't time to make money I think we all have to tighten our belts and do what's required."
"Everybody got together and did what they needed to do," is the reason he gave for the balanced budget presented to the citizens of Mesquite this year. Last year, the City was looking at a $2 million shortfall.
"Debbie (Cardenas) came in (as the new Finance Director) and God bless her, she lent her experience to the process and did what needed to be done."
Business Licenses and Impact Fees
"We really need to take a look at the upfront fees," Withelder said in reference to adjusting the startup costs for new businesses in Mesquite. "If those fees can be spread out over a period of time, that will alleviate some of the problems."
"People come in with limited budgets and limited operating capital. For them to pour out everything they have in their reserves for the benefit of business licensing and impact fees, it's no wonder they don't last very long. We've got to spread those fees out over a period of time and give the people a chance to survive."
Withelder thinks the biggest problem with new businesses is that too many times they are ill-prepared. "They don't have a business plan. They don't have a financial back-up plan."
He doesn't hold the City responsible for those shortfalls. "I don't believe it's the business of the City to tell people how to conduct their business. Historically, the City of Mesquite has been in business where they shouldn't have been in business. I'm glad to see us getting out of the business of business."
Economic Development Function
"I've got mixed emotions about it," Withelder said regarding Mesquite Regional Business, Inc.," the new public-private economic development function that's being created. "I hope it doesn't turn out to be another flash in the pan. We've attempted similar things over the past couple years that died. I think the people involved now are very capable. They come from pretty diverse backgrounds."
"I encourage them and support them wholeheartedly. But it has to be a continuing process. We just can't go to two or three meetings and expect it to be a rampant success and then we turn into a dismal failure. It's an ongoing process and we just have to keep it going. If we don't do it ourselves, it's not going to happen."
Proposed Mesquite Indoor Sports Complex
"Because we've made a significant amount of progress at that particular location, we should not abandon it," Withelder remarked when asked about the Mesquite Indoor Sports Complex that is proposed for construction near the current Mesquite Sports and Events Center.
"However, I think there are more viable and workable locations that might be in the best interests of the City. If you look up and down Mesquite Blvd and Hafen Lane, there's acres and acres of vacant land. Can they be acquired and at what price? I don't know. It does seem that if we're going to go through with it, and it is an if, is that the best location? I don't know. I would certainly be interested in looking at alternate sites."
"When this first came out back in September, one of my questions was whether it would be multiple use," Withelder said as he described some of the functions he'd like to see it used for. "Sports would obviously be a large part of it but I think we have to pursue other activities."
When he was asked about the impact a similar facility being constructed in St. George would have on Mesquite's proposed facility, he said, "we're talking about two distinctly different destinations. They may take some of our thunder, we may take some of theirs. We have as much to offer as they have. We have the added feature of gaming."
"Would it affect us? Yes. Would it hurt us? I'm not sure. Would I welcome the competition? Sure."
"If the numbers come in, the guarantees come in, the warranties come in, and all the other things that are required to make it a success, and we have a chance to succeed, I will absolutely support it," Withelder declared. "We've got to really scrutinize it from top to bottom and see where we are."
Withelder said, "there's no question it needs to be dressed up," when asked about revitalizing the downtown corridor. "Will downtown Mesquite ever turn out to be downtown Scottsdale? I don't think so. It's not just the redevelopment people that have to get their money and activities behind this, it's the property owners that have to contribute something also."
"It's not just RDA (Redevelopment Agency) money that's going to make this work. We have to have the cooperation of the property owners and see what their investment is. Are they willing and able to help? We can't do it all ourselves," he lamented.
"I don't think we can force anybody to do anything or until we make it lucrative enough that they'll jump up and invest their time and money. It definitely has to be a cooperative effort between the City and the property owners."
"Some of the properties are extremely old. Is it worthwhile putting a dress on a pig? I don't know. Some of the properties should probably be torn down. I don't want to offend any of the downtown property owners that have been here a lot longer than I have been here."
He said it depends on the project whether he's willing to commit RDA funds to the area. "I am not adverse to spending RDA money but we'll have to take a good look at it."
He opined that RDA money should be used for it's intended purpose, "and I'm not sure it should be used for the sports complex."
"Obviously, C-Tax (consolidated tax) makes the world go round," Withelder said about budget issues that may come before the City in the next year. "Not everyone is going to be happy," he said about possible new formulas on which the tax distributions could be made if the State Legislature adjusts them.
He agreed with the City Finance Director Cardenas that the City could lose up to one million dollars under an adjusted formula.
He lamented that coming up with enough money to possibly satisfy union members next year when the City and Union return to the bargaining table is "going to be a tough call. We will probably use a professional union negotiator next year," since Mike Callahan, Internal Services Director, and the one who led previous negotiations, is leaving Mesquite. "That's going to be another expense."
Gold Butte NCA
"I could have been the tie breaking vote," Withelder remarked about a recent Council action regarding a resolution the City has on the books supporting a designation of the Gold Butte area as a National Conservation Area (NCA) with Wilderness. Withelder was absent from the meeting requiring Mayor Wier to cast the tiebreaking vote in favor of keeping the resolution.
"I've given it a lot of thought. From my perspective, I'm not sure that turning it over to the government is a good idea. Anytime the Federal government gets in our pocket, they just get deeper and deeper," he commented.
"Do we need any more direction from the Federal government in our own backyard? I don't think so. We're more than capable on a local level to manage our own business."
Withelder went on to say that "we've got some pretty strong people that have been here a long time and they've been pretty staunch stewards of the land. They know it a lot better than the people in Washington D.C. or anybody from the BLM."
"I would have gone the other way," Withelder said, meaning that he would have voted to cancel the resolution supporting the NCA with Wilderness designation for the area.
He supports promoting Mesquite as an attractive area for ATV enthusiasts as a means of generating more economic activity associated with the Gold Butte area.
"I've had a conversation with the Mayor and said that we have to make our streets a little more user-friendly for ATVs. We need to create more access to the hillsides and mountains across the valley."
"We have to consider anything that's going to be an economic stimulus. Let's make the streets a little more user-friendly. We can mark the streets with paint and signs to identify what's safe," he added.
"At this point, I certainly do," is how Withelder answered the question of whether he intends to run again in next year's Council election.
"I like to think that when I ran for Council, I ran for all the right reasons. I think I've worked pretty diligently at it."
When discussing his goals for the next year, he remarked that "I'd like to see us be economically successful. I think if we get the sports complex issue resolved, and we can do it in a manner that is going to make economic sense, and if the pieces of the puzzle come together, I would support that. But it's not only building the thing, it's mapping out the future. It's staffing and utilities. From a business standpoint, I understand how all these things happen. If it's economically unfeasible, so be it. But if it has any glimmer of hope or is economically feasible, I'm behind it."
"If we don't do it for ourselves, nobody is going to do it for us," he said.
Posted Date: 07/18/2012 The last sentence of the article says it all,"nobody is going to do it for us". That's because anyone with business sense can see this is a losing venture or we would have private companies fighting over building it. By: Angus
Posted Date: 07/18/2012 Geono is a good guy who has the city's best interests at heart. He is a good rep for the council. The only question I would have is when considering the sports center for Mesquite Blvd why not use vacant land the city already owns? We don't want to do another Randy Ence library ripoff and I sure some land owners are lining up to do that. By: Vic M
Posted Date: 07/18/2012 It is not the city's job to build sports complexes with tax dollars. This councilman does not have a clue. Nor should any city dollars be used to "fix up" private property. Let the owners use their money or get a loan from a bank. Time to tear down Harley's and send the bill to the owner. Any building not meeting code needs to be fixed or torn down. That's what Code Enforcement does. By: ronnie
Posted Date: 07/18/2012 Over 80% of the “sports complex’s” in cities in the US have been built with city/county funding assistance – so a lot of folks think it IS the local governments’ job to be involved. Have all of them been operationally profitable? NO. Have many of them been huge contributors to the economies of those areas – YES. Don’t let your anti-government attitude close the door on the benefits of public/private projects. I am not saying I am in favor of a “sports complex” but I won’t make a decision based on an ideological argument that government should not be involved because it only takes a few minutes of real research to find tons of government assisted investments that have paid off handsomely for communities. Let’s see what the costs are, evaluate the benefits with a real analysis, and THEN make a good economic decision.
A multi-use facility that can accommodate small conventions/conferences AND sports events might just be a very important addition to the future of Mesquite. AHHHH – the Anasazi Conference and athletics center – Maybe. Let’s see what a real financial analysis says!
Posted Date: 07/19/2012 It's like the old adage...figures don't lie, but liars figure. They're all just pie-in-the-sky projections anyway, so the financial analysis will be unreliable. Instead of using numbers to justify a bad idea, just use a little common sense. Is a plastic tent in the desert a good idea? Particularly in a location where a natural venturi turns the wind into a fury? Of course not. Will it really benefit the city to have it in a remote location, closer to an interstate exit than a hotel or downtown area? Absolutely not. I believe we are a resort/tourism-based community that needs a convention center, and as a taxpayer I'd be willing to help pay for it. But pay for a plastic soccer tent on the fringe of town? No thanks. When the city is ready to talk about constructing a REAL concrete or brick and mortar building in the heart of downtown, central to all four big hotels (so none of the gaming companies get an unfair advantage over the other), I'm in. A tent on the edge of town? I'm out. By: Devon
Posted Date: 07/20/2012 Ronnie, the intent of rural funds is to renovate downtown areas. Unfortunately these dollars were not used like this in Mesquite. They had the opportunity to offer low cost funds for these folks to renovate their buildings but never gave them the option! By: J