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Opinion: 10 questions from citizens on the Renaissance project


The community has many concerns as it relates to the “downtown” renaissance. Since the promoters have two meetings scheduled to sell this to the taxpayers, this is an appropriate time for citizens of Mason City to bring their questions and concerns forward.

Throughout the city, I have had many people raise some valid questions about the project and the cities involvement.

Below is a list of some of the questions and concerns that have been posed to me that I would like to share here, so the “promoters” have an opportunity to address them.

The most prevalent concern that citizens have brought up centers around Southbridge. The memories they have about taxpayers getting their taxes raised to pay for a 7-million-dollar bond issue looms large and creates a huge trust issue. It was promised by the City Council that would never happen. Citizens clearly remember that Southbridge has been in “bankruptcy” more than once. That memory looms large and there isn’t the trust in City Government that City Hall can deliver a project of this nature without future and never-ending costs to the taxpayers of Mason City.

Below is a list of questions citizens would like answered:

1) Regarding the $500,000 in tax dollars from Cerro Gordo County. Is that part of the $2 Million from the hockey people? Are the hockey people needing to raise $2 Million or $1.5 Million dollars? When is their $2 Million dollars due? Will the City cover any shortfalls?

2) In discussion with the Ice people they have ice time scheduled 7 days a week, a MINIMUM of 6 months and maybe 8 months, from early morning until very late at night. Their deal with the present arena is that nothing else happens in the building during the ice season. I have been told that they get the same deal with the new arena. IS THAT TRUE? There is confusion in our community about this. How does a “multi-purpose” center and an ice arena compete without trouble for the use of the facility?

3) Will the multipurpose center construction be put out for competitive bidding from General Contractors or have you chosen a contractor?

4) When will the TAXPAYERS see the lease agreement between the multipurpose center and the hockey and ice skating groups?

5) The initial lease period is for twenty years with four (4), 5 year lease extensions. Who will pay for the REPLACEMENT of ice making equipment in the potentially 40-year lease? Will that be Southbridge, Ice Organization, or the City of Mason City?

6) Is there going to be a covering to go on the ice so the building can have other uses during hockey season? Who owns, maintains, and places/removes the covering?

7) I understand the cost to install new ice making equipment in the present arena is $750,000 to $1 Million dollars. I also understand it would cost between $3,500,000 and $5,000,000 dollars to build a NEW FREESTANDING ice arena on shovel ready land. A lower cost arena would allow for year around ice for our kids and they don’t have to travel to Albert Lea or other distant cities in the summer for lessons and training camps. With a lower cost arena, we could HOST lessons and training camps. WHY IS THIS NOT AN OPTION??

8) What are the lease payments and expenses to operate the arena? Where is the income stream? What happens if there is a shortfall in income? Where will that money come from? The taxpayers?

9) Who is/are The Mason City Foundation? Is there any “official” connection between the City of Mason City and the Mason City Foundation? If the Mason City Foundation runs into financial trouble will their financial shortfalls fall upon the TAXPAYERS OF MASON CITY?

10) These questions need to be addressed and answered by the “promoters” so EVERY TAXPAYER in Mason City has an understanding what our City Government is getting the community into. It is only fair that our City Government sends a letter to every HOME OWNER in Mason City explaining their long-term commitment and financial responsibility in this project.

Former Council-man-at large,
Larrey Loeckle
Mason City, Iowa

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