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Just a Thought - $10M too much for Civic Center
Lisa Hobbs, new mugshot.jpg

It appears McMinnville officials have done it again. 

Budget discussions are about to begin and Alderman Everett Brock made an preemptive strike, instructing all department directors to tighten their budgets, be prepared to justify the remaining items on their wish lists for the upcoming year, and hinted the city is financially strapped at this time. 

I can’t help but wonder why? Could it have been a $10 million renovation and expansion of the Civic Center? 

I think so. Exhibit A: When they discussed construction of a new station for McMinnville Police Department, Brock urged them to stay within $2 million because that number was what he used in determining if the city could afford a $10 million project. However, that lower number was from previous estimates and the cost of everything has skyrocketed and now it’s $3 million. I suspect it will be more than that. 

I say they’ve done it again because I’m getting a sense of déjà vu. Officials went all in on the Main Street renovation project with $5 million in improvements back in 2004. It looked amazing. Once phase one was complete the following year, phase two stalled.

Officials started to discuss phase two in 2007 and more than one option was that the project should be scaled back in order to keep it within the $1.2 million grant from TDOT. I remember comments about spending too much on Main Street and how they wanted to mimic the appearance of Main Street without spending too much.  

When that happens to the rest of us, it’s called buyer’s remorse, a sense of regret after having made a purchase. It is frequently associated with the purchase of an expensive item. Buyer’s remorse can be crippling. Everything that came after the Main Street project was scrutinized financially, cuts made and lesser projects postponed.

Fast forward to 2019 and this group of city officials (important to note: many different faces than in 2005) approved borrowing up to $10 million to be spent on one single project: renovate and expand the Civic Center. 

Buyer’s remorse took hold of some elected officials prior to sealing the deal. Alderman Kate Alsbrook seemed to be the most concerned about the actual cost of this project and the unforeseen cost that will come once the building is complete. I’m sure that expanded Wellness Room will need new equipment to fill it up. 

What will follow the $10 million expenditure will be cutbacks for the departments and other projects postponed. I can envision the city putting a temporary halt to street paving, which has always been the first item to be scaled back. 

I don’t think the Civic Center needed $10 million, not if all other departments and projects will have to suffer financially for a while to fund it. 

The first city meeting to discuss budgets for fiscal year 2019-20 is slated for June 3 at 7 p.m. 

Standard reporter Lisa Hobbs can be reached at 473-2191.