MASON CITY – Southbridge Mall’s mysterious owner – who calls himself by at least three names – won’t have smooth sailing snagging $18 million in upgrades and rent to his $1.5 million mall for an arena, even though the city council approved a plan to go ahead with the deal Tuesday night.
The Mason City council Tuesday night unanimously approved a January 3, 2017 public hearing for the possible multi-use ice arena that would be built in Southbridge Mall’s former JC Penney anchor store footprint. Things got testy first, though, when former councilman Max Weaver took to the public podium and criticized the deal, saying he had a trademark “Weaver Plan B” idea that would work out better for the taxpayers. Councilman Travis Hickey hit back (figuratively – he didn’t physically attack Weaver as he has in the past), calling Mr. Weaver out by name during the meeting as his face glowed as red as Rudolph’s. Weaver struck back later, telling Hickey to “grow some hair.”
The public uproar to city hall’s gung-ho, all-out attempt to go deep into business, potentially for decades, with Tehran Kohansieh (or is it Mike Kohan or Mike Kohen?) of New York has many taxpaying citizens as peeved as Mr. Hickey, and they are doing something about it. One man told NIT “Ole Bookee will be long gone in a few months, and we’ll be stuck with this hedge funder who owns decrepit malls all over the place. We’ll be screwed! Heck, half this council is about to get their walking papers, and look at them dig our grave. I won’t stand for it.”
This tough talk and Mr. Hickey’s challenge of Mr. Weaver has led to an overwhelming push to produce a signed petition that would put the brakes on Bookmeyer’s and the council’s freight train and send them back to the drawing board for a deal less-risky to the taxpayers. City hall claims millions could be on the way from the state, but so far, this is all conjecture, as is a claimed $2 million contribution from hockey supporters. These dollars are not in the bank here, yet.
Citizens of Mason City have contacted auditor Ken Kline at the courthouse, even as Mr. Weaver entered city hall Wednesday night along with longtime-activist Phil Sanchez and demanded numbers and answers on the legalities of the petition against Bookmeyer’s arena plan. Mr. Kline (and city hall) delivered. He says “the (number of needed valid signatures on the petition) are based on the number of voters from the 2015 Regular City Election at which 1,397 voters participated. The minimum number of signatures is 140; which is ten percent of 1,397, rounded up. The petition must be filed with the city clerk “before the date fixed for taking action”. If that date is January 3rd, then I would think the petition must be filed before that date. People filing a petition must be aware of days and times the city clerk’s office is open.”
The petition is being drawn up Thursday morning, and sources tell NIT that the many more than 140 people will sign.
“We’ll need ’em, since we know Eric will try to get names crossed off the petition,” one petition-backer claimed. “He’s sneaky, and we have to be on our toes.”
Once Bookmeyer’s plan stalls or fails – as so many others have in the past – this is potentially the moment when Mr. Weaver will introduce a detailed “Weaver Plan B” idea for a stand-alone arena, more focused on ice activities, not located in the downtown. “I don’t want to be in the entertainment business,” Mr. Weaver told NIT Wednesday night in an interview. “Brett Schoneman’s idea to bring in ‘5-year-old bands’ to ‘play on Thursdays’ and sell beer … he just wants gigs for his pals who play in bands. Actually I think HE is in a band. We can build an arena for for less than $13 million and it can be owned by a local non-profit.”
More details to come in this rapidly-evolving drama.