Thursday, September 9, 2010

Courts--A Done Deal?

At next Tuesday's Council meeting staff will be asking for Council blessing to solicit PPEA (Public-Private Educational Facilities Infrastructure Act) proposals on all concepts brought forward to date regarding court improvements--including all the proposals in the Mosley Report , the post office site, Glave's proposal, (the current Council majority favorite), and the Executive Plaza proposal put forward by Councilman Fred Howe. The resolution's,, goal is , " obtain competitive negotiable proposals for various court proposal options to meet the long-term facility and space needs of the Fredericksburg court system." So if passed by Council what does this mean?

1. Any thought of coming up with solutions that address court needs while recognizing the financial constraints the city faces are gone. The Council majority is intent on meeting, "the long-term facility and space needs," of the courts. Translated Council is prepared to sacrifice the city's priorities to meet court needs. They are also prepared to significantly raises taxes, endanger the city's bond rating, for the largest capital project in the city's history which will have negligible benefit to city residents who will have to pay for it.

2. What private design/build team is going to make the investment in time and money on a proposal which does not have the support of a majority of the Council? It is clear that the Executive Plaza proposal does not have majority support. A majority of the Council has at least acknowledged that the post office option is cost prohibitive. The Moseley options were ignored by most of Council because they didn't meet, in their view, all of the courts' future needs. The only proposal that has been endorsed by Council is the Glave Holmes scheme #5, , which passed 6-1 at the Council meeting of November 24, 2009. Council is also prepared to endorse the move of the downtown fire station which is a major component of the Glave Holmes proposal. So how many different site proposals do you expect the city will received? If this resolution passes it is an endorsement of the Glave Holmes proposal.

3. Finally, and most importantly, the passage of this resolution, "Approving the Process for Courthouse Development and Planning Using the Public Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002," will mean Council is not prepared to explain to city residents the impact of this project on the city and deprive them of any opportunity to voice their concerns about a project which they will be expected to pay for.

There is no doubt that staff will defend this resolution Tuesday night and take issue that it is not an endorsement of any one proposal. They will also make their case that this vote is not a commitment on the expenditure of funds. I am prepared to debate these points and the issues of court vs. city needs. But what about the Council itself? When are those members who are intent on meeting, "the long-term facility and space needs of the Fredericksburg court system," planning to join this debate?

Do you have a different read on this resolution?

1 comment:

Hamilton said...

Probably the worst thing Council can do is to continue this process without engaging the citizenry and without a public hearing. Lest us taxpayers be mere serf's to the feudal lords.