The following letters to the editor concern the proposed Lincoln County Commons Exhibit Hall on the County Fairgrounds in Newport. The views and opinions expressed by the writers are solely their own and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the management and staff of NewsLincolnCounty.com or its advertisers.
Letter to the Editor:
From Gerry Barrett, Newport
As a concerned Lincoln County resident, I met recently with Lincoln County Commissioner Bill Hall regarding community outreach regarding the “Commons” Exhibition Hall on the County Fairgrounds property, and then asked a few follow-up questions about financing of the construction and operations for that project.
These are the questions I asked:
* How much money is in the bank for the Commons project now?
* What is the proposed budget for this project?
* What restraints, if any, are there as to the use of this money?
* If there is not enough money in the bank to pay for the project will the commissioners borrow the balance?
* If not, how will you finance the budget shortfall?
* Is there any risk that the citizens of Lincoln County will be asked to fund the construction phase or to fund the operational phase of the Commons if the room tax allocated to this project is insufficient?
Commissioner Hall’s response on February 9, 2018 indicated that $2.3M was available through room tax revenues, and he helpfully included copies of the 2016 and 2007 ballot measures (#s 21-165 and 21-119) that voters passed to fund this project through increased room tax fees. Commissioner Hall indicated that there was no proposed project yet because plans haven’t been finalized, that borrowing to make up the difference between available funds and actual cost wasn’t yet decided, and he suggested the project could be done in phases when more room tax funds became available.
According to the County’s 607 County Commons Facility Fund, there is approximately $2.4M in the bank today. Measure 21-165 (2016) states that the convention center will be approximately 25,000 square feet.
“A portion of the tax is currently dedicated to the Fairgrounds Facilities Improvement Fund. That funding is intended to support the redevelopment of the fairgrounds, recently renamed the County Commons, including the addition of a new exhibit hall of about 25,000 square feet.”
So the notion that there’s no proposed project yet is false. Clearly, today there are plans for an Exhibit Center, possible new buildings, as well as upgrades to existing structures.
If you could build this for $150 per square feet, which in my opinion you can’t, the cost just for the building would be $3,750,000, which is obviously far in excess of available funds. Nor does this estimate for the building include any money for infrastructure improvements, which will need to be included in any budget. The cost for those upgrades will be quite substantial as water, sewer, electrical, plumbing, storm water, parking, and other incidentals are all required. Plus demolition and grading must be considered. Assume additional costs will be factored into the budget.
How does the County propose to fund these required upgrades? Once again, referring to Ballot Measure 21-165:
“Without any impact to local property tax payers, we’ll be able to improve the infrastructure and structures at the Commons. Included in these improvements will be electrical, plumbing, sewer, and internet services.”
Now is the time to have these discussions. Certainly, Commissioner Hall and the other two County commissioners haven’t gotten this far in the planning process to not know what the alternative funding options are. It is disingenuous and, in my opinion, reckless to say there haven’t been any County discussions about the necessity for borrowing funds to build this project. Don’t you need to know how you are going to pay for something before you make a plan to build it? Just because plans haven’t been finalized doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know approximately how much money will be needed to build the project and where that money is coming from? There isn’t enough money in the bank today to even contemplate starting unless the County has already secured sources for additional funding. And since there won’t be any impact on the taxpayers of Lincoln County, I’m wondering how they propose to go forward.
To suggest that this “Commons” project be done in phases, and paying for the additions through future room tax revenues is misleading because there isn’t enough money today to start, and even if there was enough to start, the amount of money earned each year (approximately $200,000) from room tax, after deducting expenses for operations and staffing, will not be enough to build much of anything, certainly not the plan the County has put forth to date.
Maybe I’m missing something here, and I hope I am, but I do not see how the Lincoln County Commissioners can come to us today and tell us that this project can and will be built with the existing funds, and without having any additional financial impact on the Lincoln County taxpayers. The money available today and the “Commons” plan doesn’t add up. In my opinion, it is imperative that the County Commissioners re-evaluate the wisdom of going forward with this project.
Letter to the Editor: Carla Perry
Open Letter To The People Of Lincoln County,
I was invited to the Video Sneak Peek of “Ebb & Flow: Life On Yaquina” held last Friday evening at the Maritime Museum on the Bayfront.
As I entered, I chatted a bit with Spencer Nebel (City Manager), and Sandy Roumagoux (Mayor), and sat next to a woman named Kathryn who had, on her lap, the original bylaws and rules book signed by the Indians who were booted out of Toledo to make way for the white settlers. She unwrapped it … all handwritten accounts of every rule they could think of as they headed off to the reservation. Kathryn’s grandmother gave her the book after holding onto it for 100 years. The book will be going back to the Tribe, but they have no place to keep it safe from dampness and decay just yet.
The “Ebb & Flow” videos were the history of Newport and Toledo and were very well done, informative, good music track, excellent short vignettes with various people interviewed doing commentary as the images came and went on topics such as Newport’s earliest history, then segments on the railroads, timber & logging, Nye Beach, Yaquina City, a segment on the fishermen with commentary by the sons and grandsons of those fishermen. In between sets of short movies, Don Davis spoke a bit, funny as usual.
But the big reason why you should have been there was the space… The Maritime Museum has numerous conference rooms, numerous reception areas with views of the river & docks, full kitchen, a real movie theater (still in the works). Numerous floors and half-floors, and patios to the outside that can hold more than 100 people. Brand new windows, the woodwork (extensive) is beautiful. Do you know Thom Frazier? A local woodworker who generally does boats, but he gave me a tour of some downstairs rooms not yet open to the public for which he’d been making the doors, doorways, and woodwork in the women’s bathroom. They saved the old windows to use as the front of display cases built along the inner wall, the old stonework left exposed in some areas. High quality, tasteful touches everywhere. The wood stairway railings lovely to touch. It’s got sufficient parking. When all renovations are complete, it will make a splendid event center.
Why do we need to build another one? This has everything the Fairgrounds event center wants to include, but the walls aren’t moveable cheap stuff. Just many, many interestingly-shaped and varied size rooms. Have you been in the building lately? It would be worth your while.