Letter: We don’t need another legacy project
St Augustine, FL
I could not believe what I was hearing — the City Commissioners voted to spend $1.4 million last night on improvements to the VIC and the import of a Picasso Exhibit to St. Augustine.
My first question was: Where will the money come from? We don’t have it to renovate the Old Water Works facility that was promised in 2005. We don’t have it to put in underground power lines on King Street. We don’t have it to repair the historical brick streets in town. We don’t have it to install street lights in Lincolnville. We don’t have the money to dredge Maria Sanchez Lake as promised 8 years ago.
The answer was simple. We will take it from the City’s reserve funds! Ergo, the money has been sitting there all along.
But, wait! The City’s mandatory Reserve Fund is established for unplanned and emergency needs. What if a hurricane floods the city and uproots trees? Will enough emergency funds remain? Emergencies must not be that important.
If bonded, the additional $500,000 for the building would require a monthly payment of over $3,500 for 25 years to amortize. The entire $1.4 million dollar package will cost the taxpayers over $10,000 per month. Their answer, we will not borrow the money. That is playing the numbers game. The city still has to cover the cost over time.
The next question was, why? The Mayor was specific: We don’t expect to make money on everything we build. This is a legacy project. Wow! Prior to this, he claimed the new seawall was a legacy project, but I thought the seawall was critically necessary to prevent flooding of downtown St. Augustine. I now wonder, was the M&M Market a legacy purchase also?
In addition to the building cost, they also approved almost $400,000 to bring the Picasso items to St. Augustine for three months. Let’s see, that works out to $130,000 per month. At $8 per person entry fee, that equates to 555 payed guests every day for 3 months nonstop. That doesn’t include the operational costs for security, etc.
My final question was: What happens after Picasso leaves? No problem, the VIC will be used for other events; even though there are no other planned events that would require the level of improvements required to bring the Picasso exhibit to the VIC. But, we will have the capabilities.
Therefore, the nearly $850,000 in additional costs are committed only to support a single event. Follow-on events would be satisfied with the existing VIC upgrades.
The City staff produced a pro-forma, which none of the taxpayers have seen. I don’t know where the numbers originated or how reliable they are. For all we know, they could be nothing more than “hope for” numbers or “must have” numbers.
Touring art exhibits of the Picasso caliber are not clamoring for small town venues.
Being a small collector of art, I support the arts. But I agree with Jeanne Troemel’s comments – let’s do more for the local artists.
In addition, let’s do more for the residents and neighborhoods. The City belongs to the taxpayers and we need to address and resolve their needs before we spend money on legacy projects.
My final thought. When will the City Commissioners start focusing on the residents and the neighborhoods again? I guess when the 450th is over. But, then, the Commissioners can legitimately claim the City has no money.