Based on a ceiling collapse in council chambers and selective excerpting of past engineering studies, our council says unanimously that city hall is no longer fit for occupancy. Working within an echo chamber of similarly right-minded citizens and consultants, council has promised themselves and our 200 employees a new home.
End of story! Almost. There are still the other 21,000 people who will have to pay for it, many of whom live in homes that are older than city hall and, by council’s criteria, no more safe.
It gets better. We don’t even have the money to make principal payments for the temporary lease discussed in the story, let alone the $40 million a new city hall building plan will now cost. The current loan is interest-only with an unfunded $2.7 million balloon payment in five years.
If you are troubled by city use of a form of financing now discredited for home buyers all over the country, it doesn’t matter. And, if you wonder if council acknowledges the reality of a new national frugality, no, they didn’t get that memo either.
In 2014, their hope is that each household will be by then willing to pay $300 to $400 more per year in real estate taxes. To facilitate our right decision, they will demolish the current city hall. No sense taking the chance that someone might ask if the council chambers could be made safe for five more years, or maybe 50, for far less than $2.1 million.
What if we won’t pay more taxes? Council would rather be vagabonds in the office rental market than stay one extra day in the current building. So be it. The shame is that council has just scare-mongered themselves, their employees and, unfortunately, all of their constituents into a corner of council’s own making.