[EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Normandy Park Blog nor its staff:]
City Hall Discussions – an open letter to the Normandy Park City Manager
Thanks for the email response. As I have told others I am not totally opposed to leasing at Towne Center nor am I predicting any disaster if you do. Nor have I any qualm with the treasurer’s financial numbers as she has always been very thorough and even a bit conservative in her projections. What has me raising my eyebrows is the speed with which this has risen to the top priority and some of the statements being made to justify sighing a lease “as soon as possible” as some council members have stated. I thought the first priority was to get the city financially healthy again and then begin a discussion about a new Rec. Center and the City Hall. If the Town Center landlord has other clients in the wings, so be it. His interest is not the health of the city but sales and leasing out his buildings. Hasty, rushed decisions often become bad decisions.
What happened to the desire to bring the police department up in staffing, especially with the recent rash of break ins and burglaries? At the end of the proposed lease the city would only have a few hundred thousand in reserves over what has been considered the absolute minimum ($1.1Mil). Would it not be prudent to stay put and stop spending what should be reserves. When I was first on the council before the effects of the Great Recession, the city carried about $3.5 million in reserve for disasters and emergencies. That was not even considered a flush amount but it worked.
Why was a contracted party and dollars spent necessary to find out we have an old building that has tons of deferred maintenance? We already knew all that. Now statements are being made that we have an unhealthy building that is making people sick. If you truly believe this you may be required to immediately close the Rec Building, especially to the children that are using it. It contains the same systems and materials that are used in the City Hall building. If you will have to permit certain repairs such as the HIVAC and thus bring everything up to code which will create unexpected costs to the budget why does this not apply to the Rec. Building? It is my belief that staying put and making only the necessary repairs to keep the building functioning reasonably (not a big remodel which you are correct would be a waste), while beginning the process to find out what alternatives, grants, community resources and gifts are possible is more likely to come to a determined solution. This is not going to be an easy reckoning but it might be done better with the time allowed by not abandoning what has served and spending over $700K in five years on a shinny new lease. If you think you can use the current building for another purpose such as leasing it out, why would that not provide those same unexpected unbudgeted repair costs that are being used to justify a move?
There are a lot of good questions about this move and its cost to the city finances. It is time for the current council to call a time out, slow down and take back it’s leadership function and not get rushed by the real estate brokers and arguable justifications. I hope you will come to agree. For those who are unhappy about our City Hall and feel they need new offices now, they should be told they can always move on. This is after all a rather small city living mostly off property taxes that are still pegged to only a 1% yearly increase.
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