Archive for Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Letter to the editor: The downtown issue

September 17, 2003

I am writing in reply to Mr. Lenahan's letter (The Mirror/Sept. 10). I believe it is time someone addressed the ramblings that continue to be touted as truth.

I was a city council member during the downtown project, and I am proud of the downtown we have. Mr. Lenahan's contention that no one involved in the decision making was a downtown business owner is true. Thank goodness, we were able to do the project even with some of them kicking and screaming along the way. I haven't forgotten the crumbling sidewalks and the lake at Fourth and Bury every time it rained. I don't want to include all downtown business people, but only the few vocal and stubborn ones, such as Mr. Lenahan and his late wife, who wanted to prevail their will above the majority.

The $1.2 million project was completed despite their protests. Many changes were made to satisfy them and additional work and expense were incurred in doing so.

When it came time to pay, those few refused to pay the amount agreed to before the project began. It had been hoped, because of a state grant, businesses' share of the project would be less than projected. But because of the changes and previously unknown underground problems, business owners' share came to about $271,000 and the rest of the citizens picked up about $630,000. The businesses' share originally was estimated at $300,000.

This did not sit well with the dissenters, so as the bond sale neared, the city negotiated the businesses' share to $200,000. But then the city discovered the dissenters had filed a lawsuit. If it was not settled, the sale could not occur. To save the city's credit rating, the businesses' share was negotiated to $170,000, with taxpayers picking up the balance.

Then, the then-city administrator made a comment that citizens are paying for today. He said the city shouldn't do business with people who renege on agreements. It was this comment and not council action that is the basis for their lawsuit. The council never voted or agreed to boycott any business.

This barrage of negative comments about a great project made my decision not to seek re-election easier. As for the comment we didn't care about downtown, just drive on Fourth Street.

Pat Albert,

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