OUR TAXES COVER LOSSES BUT EVEN SO, WE MIGHT OWE THE TOWN TO MES-I-ROW.
(with apologies to the late Tennessee Ernie Ford and George S. Davis)
Why is the village still chasing after a $21 million loan? This is the question on the minds of many Lemont citizens even as negotiations continue with Mesirow Financial to secure financing for the “rental sports complex” project. Many estimate that the loan will In fact be a lot closer to forty million dollars when borrowing costs and interest are thrown in. But what exactly are our local honchos planning to do with the dough?
Of course some folks immediately point for answers to the various studies the village paid for and the FAQs they prepared. These are all available at the village web site (see link below):
What you learn from these sources is that the village plans to erect an indoor sports building with two turf soccer fields that is somewhere between 122,000 square feet on the low end and up to 160,000 square feet on the high, depending on which of four sources you refer to. There will also be two full-sized lighted multi-use outdoor turf fields. A 3,000 seat outdoor theater and a walking path along the Sanitary and Ship Canal are planned. One source touts a children’s spray pad, another mentions a winter ice skating rink, an amenity oft mentioned and very dear to Mayor Reaves. Indoors there will also be two convertible basketball courts, party room(s) and concessions. Parking for a varied number of cars is included. All in all an extremely vague description for such an expensive endeavor, especially one being foisted upon the public without their direct approval. But it gets worse.
While these limited descriptions of the project seem pretty sketchy, the picture becomes even more muddled and confused when recent statements by our elected officials are thrown into the mix. Only last month at the January 6 village board meeting Mayor Brian Reaves declared that the plan was more of a “concept”. Trustee Paul Chialdikas suggested that the development might be a factory or “even a pancake house”, perhaps a reference to his own now defunct breakfast establishment. This was the January 6 meeting, the same meeting where the board voted unanimously to kill the referendum that would have given the voters a voice on the matter. It was their first ordinance action of the year. Quite a way to kick off 2014.
The mayor has also offered other purposes for the project. At the village board meeting on Monday February 10, he suggested that the immense capital improvement could serve to save the lives of children in the face of a growing heroin problem at Lemont High School. He also suggested that the sportsplex would be a source of much needed revenue to meet the rising costs of village government. Trustee Chialdikas has described it as “an economic device to create a greater value for our downtown area.”
Now we all know that it isn’t uncommon for people to save money without having an absolutely clear cut purpose. Sometimes we save for the future. Or for a rainy day. Or maybe to buy a new car some day or for the kids college or a vacation or for retirement.
But when was the last time you borrowed money for no specific reason? When have you gone into debt without being able to say exactly what you planned to do with the cash? Yet our village wants to borrow millions for a “rental sports complex” or for a “concept” or an “economic device “or maybe a “factory”. Or it could be a panacea for an apparent growing drug problem. It might be to serve as the solution for our town government’s budgetary woes. Or it could just be for a “pancake café”.
Sometimes the best way to move forward is to start over. The Village of Lemont should cease any efforts to borrow money until they can explain clearly and completely and in exacting detail what precisely they intend to do with this loan and have secured the approval of the people of Lemont.
LET US VOTE!