The views and opinions of submitters to “Letters to the Editor” do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of NewsLincolnCounty.com, its staff or advertisers. The positions taken in the following letters are strictly those of the submitters.
June 7, 2018
Once again, the County Commissioners misstate and mislead in their efforts to foist a multi-million boondoggle on the taxpayers in Lincoln County. This time, it is the person of Commissioner Hall.
Hall shamefully alleges “facts” which are not backed up by the very plan that the Commissioners paid consultants many hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop. Let me sight just a few.
* Hall states as “fact” that “the plan calls for a new exhibit hall of about 15,000 square feet”.
* FALSE. The plan lists a range of sizes for a multi-purpose building from 12,000 – 45,000 square feet. If the 15,000 size has been selected by the Commissioners, that decision is not available on the Commons Master Planning site. Either Hall is just making up a number, or the decision-making process the Board is following is being hidden from the public.
* Hall states “Every cent the county spends on construction and operations will come from the transient room tax.” He estimates this revenue to be $425,000 annually.
* FALSE. This claim is in direct conflict with the plan the Board paid consultants to develop. That plan states:
“The annual debt payment would be about $1,060,000. The County would be able to dedicate $400,000 to $475,000 of Transient Lodging tax revenue to the debt payment, depending on the operational deficit. The County will need to find funding to cover the funding gap of $500,000 to $600,000 per year.” (emphasis added)
Why would Hall make such an outlandish claim? According to the consultant’s plan, it will actually cost over twice what Hall estimates is actually available from the room tax. Does the Board have a financing mechanism in mind that it has not shared with the public?
Taxpayers should also be aware that these figures do not include actual operation of the facility, nor annual maintenance costs.
Further, it is apparent that Hall is aware that what she is claiming as “fact” is actually intended to mislead. Why else would she later add a paragraph naming a variety of public enterprises, such as libraries and recreational centers, which provide services to the public but are not self-sustaining? I love libraries and art centers and the Lincoln County Fair! I support paying for them with my tax dollars. I don’t support this particular proposal because it does not reflect what we in Lincoln County actually need or want! This proposal is full of hidden costs, unsupported claims, and lame allegations of public mandate.
Hall continues to claim that the Board has a mandate for this fiasco because of two approvals of a County transient lodging tax. Here again, she misstates the language of the 2016 ballot measure, and, therefore, what the voters actually supported. Ballot Measure 21-165 actually states:
“The additional revenue would be available for future fairgrounds redevelopment and operations, or similar facilities and operations throughout the County” (emphasis added).
This is not, as Hall asserts, a mandate for this specific project on this specific site. Further, we all know that placing a tax on tourists is not the same as agreeing to tax ourselves, and shame on Hall and the rest of the Board for continuing to insist that they are.
Politicians have used this tactic for years—repeating the same falsehoods in the hopes that they will eventually be accepted as fact. I expect this behavior in Washington, D.C. I will not tolerate it from my own local elected officials!
So, the Board of County Commissioners continues to make false and misleading statements and continues to push a proposal that has never had the support of the voters and taxpayers of Lincoln County, which we do not need and cannot afford. Why? Do they have plan, approach or information that they have not released to the public?
The Board should stop playing us for a bunch of fools and patsies, and, instead get off this crazy, expensive merry-go-round and address what we really need—a Lincoln County Fairgrounds.
From County Commissioner Claire Hall
A new Lincoln County Fairgrounds is exactly what the public is going to get. I am sorry I wasn’t clear in my earlier submission. The construction and operating costs that Ms. Rose references from the earlier document are correct, but they are based on the consultants’ original concept, which represented the ultimate wish list of those who participated in our initial stakeholder interviews. However, after the last public meeting, we went back to the consultants with clear orders: come back with a plan that can be built and operated within the resources we have. The 15,000 square foot exhibit hall, 25,000 square foot pavilion and the thrift store re-purposed for 4-H represents the entirety of the project, and it can be built and operated without one cent of general fund dollars.
Claire Elizabeth Hall
Lincoln County Commissioner
From Sally Rose, South Beach
Interesting claim, Commissioner Hall, but where is the plan? Where are the facts? So far, we still see nothing concrete, just unsupported statements and platitudes. When will we actually see something of substance?
REBUTTAL BY CO. COMMISSIONER CLAIRE HALL
I didn’t mention the Urban Renewal money for two reasons: it is my
understanding that the city has not finalized its committment of these
funds, and if they are provided, they want them to go for ancillary
improvements like utility upgrades and additional parking, as opposed to
the construction of the project itself. As the Urban Renewal Agency for
the City of Newport, the City Council has the authority to determine
whether or not the allocation of funds to support the project benefits
Newport residents and taxpayers. I am not able to speak for the
council–they can and will do that for themselves–but my understanding
is that they see this project as being within the broad scope of what
Urban Renewal is designed to accomplish–improved community
infrastructure that stimulates economic activity and growth.
The revised plan shows a projected $550,000 per year available for the
Commons project through the 2007 and 2016 room tax measure. The revised
plan which will be presented to the Master Plan Steering Committee on
Thursday allocated $400,000 of that per year for capital costs over
thirty years, with $150,000 for an operating subsidy. If room tax
revenues continue to rise and income from the facility exceeds
projections, we could pay off the capital costs sooner. If the need for
subsidy exceeds the $150,000 figure, we can extend the payout of the
capital costs. Our directive to the consultants has been clear–redesign
the project to fit within the means available to us. I have not, and
never will support any kind of subsidy from the county general fund to
build or operate this facility.
I hope this helps clarify where the county stands on this.
Claire Elizabeth Hall
Lincoln County Commissioner
My pronouns are she/her/hers
REBUTTTAL BY CAROLE VAN STRUM
Dear Commissioner Hall —
Your June 5 opinion piece in News Lincoln County raises some serious
Most troubling is your statement: “This will cost local property
taxpayers money. False. Every cent the county spends on construction
and operations will come from the transient room tax.”
This is disingenuous at best, as substantial funding for the project —
some $3 million — is expected to come from City of Newport property
taxpayers, who unequivocally qualify as “local property taxpayers.” I
urge you therefore to publish a correction to your misleading statement.
Six questions were asked by Gerry Barrett in April after meeting with
you about this project (see Mr. Barrett’s attached News Lincoln County
letter). At least three of Mr. Barrett’s six questions remain loudly
— 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?
These are valid questions that the public needs answers to, particularly
given the fact that a large portion of Lincoln County citizens who are
Newport property tax payers are already expected to fund the
construction phase. Mr. Barrett’s breakdown of the numbers makes
abundantly clear that this project cannot even be started without city
taxpayers’ money, and that room tax revenues will not be nearly enough
for operating and maintenance costs, to say nothing of the inevitable
cost over-runs that always occur. Those room tax revenues upon which
this entire project relies are themselves notoriously subject to the
whims of climate, politics, stock market crashes, international trade
wars, gas prices, and other dire effects on tourism. To expect this
variable and unreliable source of revenue to pay for such a grandiose
project is pie-in-the-sky economics.
Your June 5 article also states “People didn’t vote to support this.
False. They voted in both 2007 and 2016 to dedicate room tax revenues
for it, by a 60 percent margin each time. The 2016 measure was very
specific: ‘The new tax revenue would be dedicated to increase support
for the redevelopment of the fairgrounds… and also be available for
operations of the facilities at that location.'”
This statement is also extremely misleading. We may indeed have voted
to dedicate new tax revenue to “increase support for the redevelopment
of the fairgrounds,” but we did NOT vote for a huge allocation of
Newport property taxes as well as massive county debt to pay for an
unnecessary new building and pavilion instead of repairing, improving,
and maintaining current fairground structures. I urge you therefore to
publish a correction to your false assertion that voters approved paying
for a multi-million dollar project with taxpayers’ money.
I have personally seen far too many projects like this one either fail
and go unfinished, or cost taxpayers inordinately far more than
originally projected. All those failures began with the same kind of
misleading and unrealistic claims and obfuscations apparent in your
article and in the commissioners’ public statements.
Because voters never approved spending taxpayers’ funds for this
project, no further action or funds should be committed to it before it
is placed on the ballot again, this time with an honest, accurate
statement of where all of its funding shall come from.
Because to this day we, the public, have not been fully informed about
the true costs of the project, the commissioners should publish a
thorough and above all honest accounting of all estimated costs,
including estimated costs of associated infrastructure improvements such
as water, sewer, electrical, plumbing, storm water, parking, increased
law enforcement, etc. Such accounting should also include an honest and
unexpurgated discussion of all alternative funding options and their
potential financial liabilities for county taxpayers.
Carol Van Strum
Five Rivers, Oregon