We have a number of issues that demand attention and demand expenditure of our scarcest resource – money! The most pressing monetary issues, as I see them, are: The Smokehouse Bridge; the Community Center; and renovation of the fire house. My last letter addressed the Smokehouse Bridge, so I'll tackle the Community Center here.
This has been projected to cost between $1.6M and upwards of $9 million, depending on who suggested them. Our esteemed City Council members raise this issue in almost every meeting and they can not gain agreement even amongst themselves. In a recent council meeting, this motion was raised four separate times, and none of the times could gain consensus. Surveys have been conducted several times by at least three different organizations over several years, including the MITA, MICA, and MIPO. Yet our councilors want to waste even more time and money soliciting yet another survey – this one being sent in our utility bills.
I guess they don’t know how to accept “no” for an answer. Larry Magel says the Community Center can be paid for with existing reserve funds from the refinancing of the water utility project, without incurring any further debt. Given this news, and accepting that the city as a whole does not want to pay for a new community center at this time, I suggest we use those reserve funds to pay down our enormous debt. Which brings me to another point – since we have such a high debt, how the heck does our City Council justify “loaning” the Hideaway Beach association a half a million dollars, at an unbelievable 2.5 percent interest rate? This is a private, gated community we’re talking about. They say that they’re not “private,” that anyone can go in – as long as they walk in. Have you ever tried to drive into Hideaway? I have and I was turned away because I don’t live there. They’re private and gated when we want something, but they’re an open community when they want our dollars.
The City Council perhaps should tackle other issues before “loaning” our money out. For instance, get qualified and licensed inspectors. This issue is a disgrace! Also, use some of their unspent energy to review, correct and ensure there are no future repeats of the repetitive auditing errors we see year after year. How can something so simple take so long to correct?