Mayor Newberry Trying to Waste Everyone’s Money?

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by David M. Schankula

Jim Newebberry is in Washington, DC today where he and 17 other mayors from across the country will “provide input on a plan President Barack Obama is designing to stimulate the economy and create jobs.”

In case you’ve missed it, two weeks ago Newberry submitted to the federal government a $556,000,000.00 “stimulus” request. According to the Hairy-Liberal:

Criteria for the stimulus includes projects that would quickly create jobs, would improve infrastructure the private sector needs to succeed, would produce lasting economic and environmental benefits and could be a completed within two years.

The day after the inauguration, Newberry hit Capitol Hill to lobby our Congressional delegation on the urgent need for this money. Newberry claims Lexington’s slice of the stimulus package could create 9,000 jobs, and would get Lexington’s economy moving.

It certainly sounds good, right?

One of the best blogs covering Lexington’s urban development, The Lexington Streetsweeper, crunched the numbers on Newebberry’s plan a couple weeks ago. I was waiting to see if these questions would be raised by Lexington’s own media — but seeing as how Newberry’s at the White House now still parading his fantastical plans, it seemed like a good time to highlight some of the Streetsweeper’s findings

On the LFUCG’s Great City Hall Debate:

The Mayor and the Council have made a big deal about the need for a new City Hall Complex and have had a consultant study the same. The recommendation has been given that, yes, we do need a new building but a location has not been identified. The Mayor an Council have proposed replacing the Stewart’s garage and Police headquarters with a new City Hall and removing the Phoenix building and parking garage. With that as background, we find on the wish list these items:
  • Switow Building; Painting/Flooring and HVAC Improvements: $170,000
  • Phoenix Building; Windows/Flooring/Painting and HVAC Improvements: $2,020,000
  • Government Center; Total Building Renovations: $8,000,000
  • Coroner’s Office; Total Building Renovations including HVAC: $1,500,000
  • Government Center Parking Garage Restoration. Safety, ADA, and structural improvements to important downtown public parking garage: $2,181,000
  • Annex Parking Garage; Concrete Repairs: $100,000
  • Courthouse Parking Garage; Upgrade Revenue Producing Equipment: $100,000

Each of these would be vacated and/or demolished in the near future if a new city hall is built, so is the administration covering its bases or wasting money?

Regarding Newebberry’s CentrePointe TIF:

A great deal of discussion has been held in many forums, about the CentrePointe TIF. Several public projects have been identified for the use of the TIF funds in the area surrounding the new hotel/condo tower, not the least of which is the old Court House renovation. So, where did this come from?
  • Fayette County Courthouse; Major Renovation/HVAC: $23,000,000
  • If the old Court House is done with stimulus money for what do we use the TIF money? Does this put the TIF status in jeopardy? Can we be double dipping?

    A massive expansion of football fields:

    Somewhere there is a disconnect in these two entries.
  • Develop centralized city-wide 4 field Football Complex with artificial turf to avoid ‘home-away’ conflicts and provide safer surface 3,000,000
  • Lafayette High School Football Stadium 6,500,000
  • Each of the 4 other public high schools has rebuilt their football stadiums in the past few years and each with artificial turf, I believe. Two of the private high schools have their own sports complexes. So, where can we find a “central location”, presumably, currently owned and construct 4 fields, for half the price of one, at its present location. Does anybody have any idea where this is proposed?

    And, oh yes, that great hulking boondoggle, The Transit Center!:

    Transit has been a large part of the Obama campaign during the election, so it has a number of requests. Also, the City has awarded the development rights above the Transit Center to a national design/build firm who, I understand, wishes to acquire the current garage, demo it and build from the bottom up. To that end, how do we explain this:
  • Transit Center Parking Garage Restoration. Safety, ADA, and structural improvements to important downtown public parking garage: $1,026,000
  • Transit Center Parking Garage; Upgrade Revenue Producing Equipment: $300,000
  • Transit Center Parking Garage; New Lighting/HVAC Improvements: $136,000
  • Construction of new transit center in downtown Lexington: $20,000,000
  • Like the Streetsweeper says, it’s not that these projects are a bad idea — the transit center’s been a mess from the beginning because everyone was afraid of Greyhound busses and homeless people; The Lexington History Museum could be a real gem if we had the funding for it; fixing up the Phoenix Hotel/City Hall makes more sense than creating another crater in downtown Lexington — it’s just that this list Newberry put together seems, in its redundancies, wasteful.

    Does Jim Newberry even know what he’s doing? Really, why fix city hall if your plan is to abandon and demolish it? Why fix the transit center if the plan is to demolish it?

    It’d be nice if Newebberry gets laughed out of the White House today. But it would be nicer still if he’d gone to Washington with a stimulus package request that had brains, guts and clarity.



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