2/6/13

The Tabares building Part 3

So ... as we have seen from the minutes of previous meetings, there has been more than a bit of angst on the part of at least some Urban Renewal board members over the idea of spending a couple of million tax dollars on this project.

You see, it went from purchasing the building for $22,000, with the acknowledgement that it is in fact 'blight', and not some valued bit of ancient architecture, to a precious community resource worth spending  millions for renovation. Why is it that Rebecca Goodwin and her cohorts on the board cannot resist spending huge piles of other people's money to 'renovate' collapsing, rotting, mildewed, asbestos- and lead-contaminated old piles that have been neglected for decades by their erstwhile owners?

Now that private enterprise has turned up its collective nose at funding such 'renovation', why does it fall to the taxpayers to fund this monstrosity?

And how is that supposed to happen?

Well, this is part of the 'smoke and mirrors' of the project. There are over 34 sources of free money listed in the second 'feasibility' study -- and never mind that it would be 'feaseless', if the people pushing this had to fund it out of their own pockets rather than everyone else's.

Right now, according to the study, Urban Renewal has $185,000 earmarked as a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). That is for demolition and related activities. 'They' are assuming that if it is not used for demolition, it can be used for either building shell rehab, or rehab for tenant occupation. Those are the $1.3 million and $1.8 million options, respectively. Urban Renewal has committed $61,667 in matching funds. Those 'matching funds' are tax dollars taken by the government from property owners in the TID.

DOLA offers those Community Development Block Grants. They dole out anywhere between $350,000 - $600,000 per request, according to the study. These grants require a minimum of 20% matching funds. So that means if the government largesse is the full $600,000, Urban Renewal has to cough up at least $120,000 on top of whatever else they have spent to date. That is tax money taken by the government from property owners in the TID. The study goes on to say that $120,000 remains 'from the grant currently in place' -- so does that mean Urban Renewal has already spent $65,000 of that 'earmarked' $185,000 previously mentioned? If so, then $185,000 is not 'earmarked' ... $120,000 is. What happened to the $65,000? And, since that 'earmarked' money is a CDBG, there's a year waiting period before re-application can be made. So that's a chicken that definitely hasn't hatched yet. It just isn't there, and there is no way of knowing if it will be for quite some time.

Then we have DOLA shoveling more money at the project, in the form of an Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Fund grant. Now check this: "The purpose of the Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Program is to assist political entities that are socially and/or economically impacted by the development, processing, or energy conversion of minerals and mineral fuels." There is an award cap of $200,000 per application, with a minimum 20% cash match. OK ... but can anyone explain to me how this project has anything to do with 'Energy and Minerals' or how The Smile Hi is "... socially and/or economically impacted by the development, processing, or energy conversion of minerals and mineral fuels ... '? I am sure a professional grant writer can come up with a good line of 'creative writing' on an application - but that's all it would be, and apparently it is all that is required for the state to be giving away someone else's money. This is a real scam, and the Urban Renewal board should wallow in shame over even considering it. In fact, that the board would even be considering this, illustrates just how far detached from reality that board is.

Then we have CDOT's Scenic and Historic Byways Program. The grants range from about $50,000 to $150,000 ... and here is the Point of Shame on this one: the program '... affords the traveler interpretation and identification of key points of interest and services while providing for the protection of significant resources.' The Tabares is a 'significant resource?' Really? Rebecca Goodwin and Sandra Leonard said it was 'blight.' Looks like the board has been very creative, doesn't it? So this is another government scam, requiring some of that 'creative writing' so as to fleece funds from the taxpayers to give away to Urban Renewal boards.

Then there is a grant program from the State Historical Fund, allowing up to $200,000 per phase, with a minimum 25% match required.

Here's another good one: The Colorado Brownfields Foundation. Now this one has some pretty good tap dancing in it. No specific amounts are mentioned, nor are specific sources mentioned. We 'anticipate' contribution from sources such as Colorado Department of Health that 'could be' estimated at 'approximately' 80% of total abatement costs associated with construction. The Tabares is a 'brownfield' now? How very creative! And  here I was thinking it was a 'significant resource.'

And then they start listing private 501(C)(3)'s and other free money sources. Many of those grants are down in the less-than-$3000 range, so it would take a pile of them to fund this deal. And there is no guarantee any of this free money is forthcoming.

So ... if Urban Renewal commits to this, they will do so with no firm funding, and with a requirement on the larger chunks to match with tens of thousands of dollars of money taken from local property owners in the La Junta TID. And there is no way it can be completed 'as a whole,' as the study authors so endearingly put it. In that case, they are looking at '12-18 months of fundraising activity' - and that presumes they would get the grants, and that they get the grants the first time around.

So the funding for this thing is way up in the air, as nebulous as the jobs promised by our beloved president.

Perhaps Urban Renewal would serve the taxpayers whose money they are fondling much better by simply giving it back to them, and letting them use it to maintain their own properties.