On June 5, the Northfield City Council decided to use lease/revenue bonds to finance the Safety Center. Councilor Betsey Buckheit has a detailed response in her June 11 blog post titled Financing the Public Safety Center-what and why. An excerpt:
Procedurally, the meeting was complicated by Patrick Ganey’s absence. A motion to use GO referendum bonds and the motion to issue CIP bonds both failed on tie votes (Rhonda Pownell, Suzie Nakasian, and Ivan Imm supported both; Mayor Rossing, Erica Zweifel and I voted no). Erica Zweifel made a motion – not impromptu as the LWV blog called it, but well thought our [sic] and justified – to use EDA/HRA lease revenue bonds; the motion was adopted on a 4-2 vote (Yes – Rossing, Buckheit, Imm, Zweifel; No – Nakasian and Pownell.
It was LWV Observer Jane McWilliams who labeled it ‘impromptu’ in her comments:
The lease revenue bond decision, like others the council has made, while it might make sense in the long run, seemed impromptu. Several councilors seemed unprepared for this outcome. One wonders whether all members of the council had time to seriously consider the merits and shortcomings of this funding mechanism. There definitely was a sense that several of the councilors were not in favor of letting the public decide. That seemed the primary goal and justification for the selected bonding method.
If it was "well thought out and justified" as Betsy wrote, I’m not aware of when and where that discussion was made public. I was stunned at the move as some others were. I had no idea this form of financing was even a possibility. My first reaction: this is similar to when the EDA issued the bond for the outdoor swimming pool, a really inappropriate use of its financing authority.
I agree with Betsey that:
… since earlier this year, the Council has made significant progress in defining the scope of the project, cost, location, and creating flexibility to address fire department organization, equipment and facilities issues…
but the deliberate public engagement (this year) on all this has been nearly non-existent, somewhat understandably so. Now is the time for it but it’s moot now because the Council has removed the citizenry from any direct influence on the outcome, a complete end-run. It’s a short term solution that increases public cynicism, an opportunity lost for creating a partnership with city hall on a really important capital improvement project.
And Councilor Patrick Ganey owes the public an explanation of why he wasn’t there for this important vote and a detailed explanation of how he would have voted on all the motions.