Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Are You Ready (To Pay) For Some Football? [UPDATE]

I'm still working on a summary of this morning's meeting. In the meantime, here's something for you:

I recently visited the Pioneer Days exhibit at the Pine Castle Women's Club. In a discussion with some club members about local historical buildings, they mentioned that Belle Isle City Hall presently has plans to remove the historic Crawford House, the blue house and the log cabin next to Cornerstone Charter Academy. Apparently, the City has plans for improvements to the school to make it a "world-class facility." While it would be a shame to allow these local monuments to be removed or destroyed, it's hard to find too much fault with a solid plan to improve our City's newly-acquired educational facility.

My feelings changed when I received an email from a Sun reader who relayed a conversation with Belle Isle Mayor William Brooks. It seems the Mayor's plan to turn Cornerstone into a world-class educational facility - and his justification for removing some of the few historical buildings that remain in our area - is to build a football stadium. As residents complain about rising taxes, we once again find City officials secretly pursuing another high-budget project. And this time, our local history will be lost along with our tax dollars.

Now it is certainly possible that Belle Isle residents want a football stadium. And that the City has a solid plan to finance it. Or that this information is totally wrong. But it's hard to know when no information is provided by City Hall about their upcoming plans. To that end, here is one suggestion to improve "transparency" in Belle Isle, submitted for your consideration:

The City should add a new section to the City's webpage, prominently linked from the home page, which contains a list of all major projects or initiatives being actively considered or investigated by City Hall. "Major" can be defined to mean an expected cost of $10,000 or higher - the same threshold for when Council approval becomes required. Under each project listed would be a brief description and links to any relevant documents.

Contractor presentations are often given at Council meetings regarding their work on upcoming projects. In advance of any such presentations, the City should post the presentation handouts to allow residents and Commissioners to read up ahead of time. This will also give residents a chance to contact their Commissioners ahead of the meeting so that the Commissioners can express their residents' questions and concerns.

In addition to presentation materials, all study results and other relevant project documents obtained by the City should be posted as soon as they are available. Don't make us do more public records requests - they're expensive for the residents and for the City.

This small addition to the City webpage, which would take very little effort to implement, would keep Commissioners informed and residents engaged. While it's true that residents will not agree about every upcoming project, a little healthy debate will ensure that City Hall's ideas are being thoroughly explored and vetted before our City commits major funds.

UPDATE 5/2/13:  According to comments made today by Vice-Mayor Lydia Pisano (click for link), the log cabin is not an actual historical building and the blue house will not be removed . Ms. Pisano's comments also detail the fate of the Crawford house, which she confirms will be removed. However, Ms. Pisano does not address the most important questions: What does City Hall plan to do with the land and how much will it cost us?

I would like to remind every reader of the Sun - residents and City officials alike - to please contact me with any article updates or corrections.


  1. I believe that the schools own funds as well as fundraising would pay for the football field.

    1. Instead of just "believing", there should be a comprehensive plan laid out for all to see so that the city taxpayers do not have to bail out the school.

    2. There is a comprehensive plan, but it is complicated. No money raised from taxes in Bellle Isle should ever be spent to repay the bonds. This is part of the agreement and is written in the official statement regarding the bonds. Alll of the revenues and debt service is supposed to be managed by Regions Bank as trustee. All of the bond money was supposed to go to the Trustee and they are supposed to manage the debt service-all of it. The mayor should not need to put money in any account at this point. And if he does he should check his addition!


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