The stench is beginning to rise over
City Council Tuesday night delayed a proposal whereby it can grant favored developer, Armada Hoffler (A/H), a contract to build a dubious city theater by eliminating all other bidders. The proposal, if successful, would also shut out public review and taxpayer's scrutiny.
Mayor Meyera Oberndorf's political consultant, Rubin & Associates, also represents Armada Hoffler as it's public relations firm. (See Mr. Rubin's explanation in box at right).
The taxpayers can expect to be fleeced by the political / developer relations. For example, Councilwoman Reba McClanan, who, with Councilman Louis Jones, were the council's designated negotiators with A/H, withdrew from the negotiations and voted against the project after learning some puzzling information involving the developer. Shortly after that, it was reported A/H was under FBI investigation, but federal sources would not elaborate.
Now Jones has indicated that because it would be a conflict of interest, he has stopped voting on items dealing with the Town Center project. He did vote on earlier issues.
Now council wants to consider adopting an ordinance that would allow it to circumvent the state competitive bidding law which would then permit it to 'give', without competitive bidding and public review, the job to its favorite developer.
The delay came after Bob O'Connor, president of the Citizen Action Coalition Inc., (CACI), a taxpayer watchdog agency, asked the council to defer voting on the proposal as planned Tuesday and schedule a public hearing.
There are reports of cost over runs already and the proposed theater has leaped from its original $20 MILLION dollars to $50 MILLION dollars and the council only has $35 MILLION budgeted.
One source close to the project also said that the city originally agreed to build A/H a fountain for $700,000. Now, the Phase II Development Agreement indicates the city's gift fountain to A/H will be $2.3 MILLION.
The source added, "The first issue raises a second point. Council procedure calls for a briefing on the project, followed by a public hearing, and then a vote.
"The briefing on the project held in March did not include $2,300,000 for a fountain. The cost of the fountain in that presentation was approx. $700,000.
"In addition, the size of some of the buildings to be built in the project has changed. For example, in Block 8 the size of the building drops from approx. 50,000 sq. ft. to 36,000 sq. ft.
"Thus, at best the presentation in March is misleading and the council as usual is disregarding its own procedure and avoiding public scrutiny."
One source said, "Maybe it's time for council to call a halt to the project until it can be thoroughly and objectively reviewed with the taxpayers."