Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tuesday's City Council Agenda

Here's a summary of what is on the agenda for Tuesday's City Council meeting (May 25). First, look at this drawing:

Phase 3 is the steel boat dock (barges, actually) and the helical ramp.  The contractor is building it offsite. It will be floated in and installed later.

Total of all costs through Phase 3: About $20 million.

Phase 4a (highlighted in yellow, on the right) is the restaurant, gift shop, and parking lot. Total cost: $12.5 million. This is the money the RDC is asking for on Tuesday.

Phase 4b (highlighted in red, on the left) is the park, with terraces and pods. Estimated cost: $6.8 million. The city has no money budgeted for this.

Total estimated cost of Beale Street Landing: $39.3 million.

What the RDC wants on Tuesday

The RDC wants $11.5 million released by the city so they can immediately sign the contract for the builders to begin Phase 4a -- the restaurant et al. There are two parts:
  • $10.5 million that was tentatively approved in a prior year's CIP budget ("reprogram money"). City Council has to give final approval before the bonds can be sold and the proceeds released to RDC. Note: The CIP Commmittee voted last week to recommend against this.
  • $1 million of Federal money to be transferred from the Housing and Community Development funding. City Council yet to approve the transfer.

The RDC actually needs another $1 million (a total of $12.5 million) for Phase 4a, but they have secured already commitments from the Hyde and Plough Foundations to cover the shortfall.

Phase 4b: The park.

The park has been reduced to three "pods" (or "islands") sitting on a terraced slope leading from a grassy area at Riverside Drive down to the river. In the original Argentinian design it was eight pods. It was redesigned down to five pods, and recently redesigned again (apparently for cost reasons) down to three.

Phase 4b's $6.8 million cost estimate has not been budgeted by the city. Along with the $2 million for Phase 4a, it's part of the $8.9 million shortfall the RDC has admitted to starting in November.

Mayor Wharton has not promised any city money for this last phase. RDC claims that they will look for private money to finish Beale Street Landing.

In last week's RDC board meeting, however, Chairman John Stokes made something clear: He is convinced that the city will cough up the money once they realize the RDC plans to leave an unholy mess in the park area. If you don't believe me, just listen to the audio recordings.

Here is a picture of the unholy mess they would leave -- and you should expect to see this picture deliberately flashed up on the screen on Tuesday:

Benny Lendermon has told his board [audio] that it might cost $1 million or so to clean up and landscape the park area. But Chairman Stokes doesn't want to entertain that notion, much less show it in a picture. He's afraid that if we see the area cleaned up and landscaped, we'll never spend the money to do the pods and terraces. [audio]

If you want more context for those two audio clips, you can listen to an unedited, 12.5 minute excerpt of the meeting by clicking here: [audio] You might detect a note of horror in some RDC board members' voices.

Continued in Part 2.

Further readings:

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