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Council: Events Center Cash Should Wait

September 13, 2010, 5:46 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Council: Events Center Cash Should Wait
SIOUX FALLS, SD - The Sioux Falls City Council is preparing to vote on Mayor Mike Huether's $300 million budget Monday night. And one of the more controversial items is a half million dollars Huether wants to spend to draw up plans and conceptual designs for a new events center.

City council member Vernon Brown wants to delay the approval of the half million dollars and Greg Jamison wants to spend the money in other areas. In both cases, council members think there are more questions than answers about the plans and they are not ready to spend thousands of dollars on drawings. 

Huether has revealed a few details about his plans for an events center, but Brown says he hasn't given the council an answer to one of the biggest question that hangs over his proposal: how to pay for it.

"Answer the private sector fundraising question. Answer how we will afford the operations of it, and I'll be the first one there saying 'Okay, we're ready for the drawings,'" Brown said.

Brown plans to offer an amendment Monday night to delay the half million dollars for the drawings because he's not sure Huether has any private donors lined up to help pay for the project. And even if the events center is built, he doesn't think the city has the money to pay for it. So he wants to wait.

"The day-to-day operations, the utilities, the staffing.  We're already delaying a library by a year because we can't afford to put five librarians on staff. We're not planning to hire police officers in '12 and '13 because we can't afford it. How would we afford to open the doors even if we got the building built?" Brown said.

Jamison wants to spend the half million dollars elsewhere, including Carnegie Town Hall, where city offices fell victim to flooding this summer.

"We know that this building has a problem with its roof. It's leaking, it leaks all the way down to the basement. If you know that, wouldn't you fix it if you had the money? Or would you say no, let's put that off a couple years," Jamison said.

Jamison also wants to use the money to buy vacant land to develop parks, and he also wants to spend the money to revitalize downtown. He said he'd rather spend the money on that now because there are no solid plans for the events center.

He says the council doesn't even know if the public wants an events center and will propose Monday night that the city do a scientific survey to gauge interest in an events center before it spends any money on drawings. 

"We would be better off to know what the public wants first before we go and tell them here's what we think you want, and here's how we think you should pay for it. Do you agree? Yes or no," Jamison said.

Brown says even if the council doesn't approve the half million dollars, once they get some answers to their questions they can approve the money at any time next year through a resolution.

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