Categorized | Mike's Column, News

Mike’s rant — Live to taxpayers’ budget, not wish list

If West Lincoln council could just step back, cut the hyperbole and think objectively for one moment, as a whole they would realize all the hullaballoo from 100-ish cheesed off taxpayers Tuesday night wasn’t about lack of information, misinformation, what features were included in the MURS concept proposal, or what did or didn’t happen at the project’s advisory committee meetings.

Everyone there wanted to see something done with the current arena facility. All but one speaker – and she didn’t comment on the cost just that she wanted to see it happen – stressed the municipality could not afford at $23.6 million spend.

There was a ton of comments, shots across the bow and pointed questions asked. The simplest and shortest was why not take the $10 million in development charges CAO Chris Carter said were coming down the pipe, mix in some windfarm dough and build a $14 million – which I see as spending according to what you need not what you want – and you have a brand new facility without a dime of impact on the tax base.

Who gets that opporunity, especially going into it with the handsome sum of $139,000 in reserves for the project? There has been no financial forethought for this project or reserves would have had a few more dimes and nickels chipped in over the last 5 years, say. This is not to say there has not been a scramble to find money, or create the opportunity for money in the last year cause there sure has, but that was the point of many.

What does West Lincoln need vs what does council want. For Coun. Dave Bylsma and the vast majority in the gallery, a new facility would be great but council needs to check its fiscal responsibilites.

Bylsma said he believes, from all he has heard in the last 30 days, he is the only member on council representing the majority of taxpayers in the whole municipality.

It was interesting to note that just about everything else he uttered was challenged with fire and brimstone but that comment drew crickets….

Nobody wanted to touch that one because it would be impossible to refute. If a yes or no question was put to the taxpayers about a $23.6 million spend, I suspect the approval rating would be as low as 15-20 per cent…and I am being kind at that.

That noted, everyone, including me (and remember I really don’t matter cause I have my own council spending nightmare as a resident of Grimsby) believes a totally awesome faclility with sweet bells and whistles could be done for the originally rejected $14 million. Oh what the heck, let’s make it $15 million.

Then, down the road, after those reserves get built up and some DCs evolve, add on features like the splash pad or library.
Resident Walt Zimmerman approached me in the council chamber scratching his head at a comment he had been told my Coun. Mike Rehner that the arena had to go because it was unsafe to be in. That is a powerful statement and not unlike comments made by the mayor at previous council meetings, but it conjures a couple of major questions.

1) If it is unsafe, why is it not padlocked and closed up tomorrow? Nobody should be in there if this is the case.
2) If the arena is unsafe, why is it not the priority of any build to get it done first? Why would any other portion be built before unsafe aspect is dealt with?

And that is the problem with much of the information which has been bandied about. You have the mayor and Coun. Terry Bell taking exception with quotes and details printed in stories and in this space over many months.

I’m not making this stuff up. True, it is hard to believe but truth is stranger than fiction. The job of a newspaper is to communicate news and opinion, not create it: just as it is the job of any elected official to represent the folks who brought them to the dance, not blow 30 years of financing on project overspend when a facility at nearly half the cost would serve it well.

Council, as a whole, needs to just slow its roll.

When these RFPs come in they can pick and choose what elements are included in the final build. Great! Choose what you like to but live to a budget with which your voters agree.

That is why you are there.

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