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Thursday, October 23, 2008

New City Hall Project Will Put Caldwell In Landlord Business

THE GUARDIAN attended the update on the city hall project for Caldwell last night.

The new city hall project has been scaled back to a three story building and will be used by the city, retail and a financial/bank portion of the building. The project cost is now $14 Million down from the first blush of $31 Million and four stories in height. City portion will cost $12 Million when completed.

The City Hall portion will have 39,000 square feet of space in the building but initially occupy 27,000 square feet. The City intends rent out 12,000 square feet of unused city hall spaces. The City will be in the landlord business. This move puts the city in direct competition with folks already trying to lease empty space in town at a competitive disadvantage.

The problem is, the city will pay no property taxes on the "condominium" portion of the building they will own and have put out for lease. Private property owners will be at a competitive disadvantage on lease terms. Somehow this does not seem quite right, owners of downtown property will have to pay property taxes and other assessments and try to remain competetive in the marketplace.

The next issue is that voters have been cut out of any approval of this project. Urban renewal will spend $12 Million of your property taxes without a bond election. It was suggested a voter approved bond election be held to ratify this project but was dismissed as too costly by Mayor Nancolas. The fact that urban renewal usurps 50% of property tax revenue in Caldwell was also brought up and it was suggested urban renewal be disbanded. The city levy rate would then go down by a substantial number.

The notion taxpayers/voters should get the opportunity to vote on a project of this size and cost was dismissed by the Mayor as too costly. A bond election would spread the cost over 20 years. Again, no mention of the levy rate impacts if urban renewal went away in this process. Nor any acknowldegement that voters have been cut out of the capital budgeting process approvals.

FEMA has the project stalled until they can work out the 100 year flood plain issues with the new FEMA maps. There are no alternative sites under consideration for a new city hall at this time. All the eggs are in the 7th and Blaine location.

There will be another meeting of the Downtown Steering Committee on November 19th at noon in the Police Building meeting room.

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