City Commission considering amendment for $5.5 million Civic Center repair project during Oct. 6 meeting
The proposal to amend the Downtown Urban Renewal Plan to include Civic Center repairs is on the Oct. 6 City Commission agenda.
In mid-August, the city’s planning board voted to recommend approval of the amendment. On Aug. 26, the Downtown Development Partnership unanimously voted to recommend approval of the change.
The change is needed to specify the Civic Center as a focus so that the city can use tax increment financing funds to repair the facade and roof.
The amendment was recommended by the city’s outside bond/TIF counsel to ensure its in compliance with state law.
The proposed amendment includes some other known needs for the Civic Center, City Planning Director Craig Raymond said in August staff if only bringing a TIF application for the facade and roof repairs.
In June, City Manager Greg Doyon restricted access to the front of the Civic Center due to public safety concerns.
A piece of the back panel recently became dislodged, triggering the evaluation of other areas around the Civic Center, including “substantial cracking and buckling of the front panels,” according to the city.
As a precaution, the city is installing barricades to protect the public from falling debris.
For years, City Manager Greg Doyon has been talking about the need to repair the Civic Center and his concerns for public safety should the facade fail.
During the June 16 City Commission work session, City Planning Director Craig Raymond said if those panels start to fall off, “that’s a very bad day for the city.”
During that meeting, Raymond and Doyon again walked the commission through the engineering report on the Civic Center and estimated $5.5 million project that would include replacing the roof, which has been an issue for the building for years, and replacing the facade panels that have been failing, creating a potential safety hazard as they continue to deteriorate.
Initially, city officials said they would likely need to send the project to a public vote for a bond, but have since proposed to use funds from the Downtown Tax Increment Financing District to back a revenue bond and pay the debt service.
Some members of the downtown community have been vocal in their opposition to using TIF money for the project since they want to use it to support private development coming in the downtown.
Using TIF funds means there won’t be an additional tax for property owners citywide.
On a $5.5 million revenue bond, city staff estimates the annual debt service would be about $400,000 and said that leaves roughly $900,000 and flexibility for others in the downtown who want to request the use of those funds.
The Civic Center includes the Convention Center and the Mansfield Theater, and Raymond said in August that “it would be a disservice to dismiss the positive effect those facilities have on the downtown.”
“I understand what people are saying when they express reservations about the Civic Center using those funds, but there’s no question in my mind when you look at the statutory language, it actually puts a preference and an emphasis on public infrastructure and facilities,” Raymond said during the DDP meeting. “I don’t think anybody could argue that there isn’t a heavy emphasis on public facilities” in the statute.
Downtown and business groups have asked the city to consider expanding the use of TIF funds to cover costs related to ADA compliance, fire suppression and other interior items for private developers. City staff has said the current city program is not set up to support those requests and believe that the TIF program is focused on public infrastructure, under state law, but that they would further research the matter. Members of the DDP said during their September meeting that they were working on a draft proposal for such an expanded city TIF program.