Wednesday, August 29, 2007

City's most recent Harrison Square "information request" response

I have copied my original information request that I submitted to the City of Fort Wayne on July 20th. I received the City's response by mail on August 25th. I decided to take a few days to "cool off" before I wrote this post. After four days I think I can post my response in a calm and collected way. My information request is listed below in italics. The City's responses are listed in red. My comments for this post are in purple.

Dear City of Fort Wayne:

I have attached this letter to my recent “Information Request” since there are so many items I would like copies of.

Please expedite this request as allowed by Indiana Code.

I ask that the request be expedited since this information will be voted on by our elected officials early next week.

I would like copies of the following items:

Note that I would also accept items uploaded to the City website as long as you contact me and let me know that they have been posted.

City Controller Pat Roller made a presentation to City Council on Tuesday July 17th, 2007. In her report “Sources and Uses of Funds (Present Value) I have several specific items I would like:
a. What Present Value factor was used in the calculations?

The city answered this question by providing the current estimated amortization
schedules.
b. There are several summary figures used in the presentations that were calculated
by the city. I would like a copy of how the following numbers were reached. I
would like all spreadsheets used to calculate the below figures as well as any
notes, reports, etc. These numbers were clearly calculated from something.
I am so upset about their answer to this that I am posting City Attorney Tim
Manges' response here in quotations. You have to read this to believe it. "There
are no responsive documents. The following is a breakdown of
amounts relevant to your requests. In general, these figures were either
the product of negotiated or oral estimates."
I have no idea how to even respond to this. We are spending over 60
million dollars of public funds based on oral estimates and do not
have documents showing how we derived these numbers! Good grief.
1. The report lists that 24.9 million of public funds will be used to construct a
ball park.
"For the mixed-use stadium, 24.9 million is a negotiated amount."
2. The report lists that 1.2 million of public funds will be used for Condos/Retail.
"For the condos and retail, $1.4 million is a negotiated amount."
So it looks like we are spending .2 million in public funds beyond
the amount presented to City Council.
3. The report lists that 4.3 million of public funds will be used for the hotel.
"The breakdown for the hotel is 2.3 million for land acquisition,
1.0 million for infrastructure, and 1.0 million for the bridge/
walkway."
4. The report lists that 12.6 million of public funds will be used for the parking
garage.
The City provided some documents to explain the $14,000 estimated per
parking space in the parking garage.
"For the garage, see the enclosed excerpts from the excerpts of
reports from Hock Associates and Carl Walker Inc. Hoch
originally estimated $12,000 per space. The estimate was
adjusted to $14,000 per space to reflect design changes. The total
of 12.6 million is based on 900 spaces."
5. The report lists that 21.1 million of public funds will be used for the land
and public infrastructure.
"For the land and public infrastructure, 21.1 million is comprised
of 10.7 million for the purchase of land, .7 million for demolition,
2.0 million for project administration, 3.4 million for capitalized
interest, 1.3 million for negotiation and issuance costs, and 3
million for infrastructure.
c. What are Cum Cap Revenues

"Cumulative capital improvement fund, or cum cap is defined in I.C.
6-7-1-31.1."
City provided a copy of this piece of Indiana Code.

Thanks in advance for your prompt response to this request.

Mike Sylvester, CPA


So we are going to spend over 60 million dollars of public funds and The City's cost estimates are based on negotiation and oral estimates in general per The City Attorney.

It just gets better and better. I have no doubt that the popularity of this project is going to continue to drop the more information that is released to the public.

Please remember that according to the last Zogby poll 2.45 resident oppose the Harrison Square Project for every one person who supports it.

Does anyone believe that they really do not have excel spreadsheets showing things like:
The total amount of money spent on land acquisition broken down by parcel?
Etc.

What do you think?

Mike Sylvester

14 comments:

Jeff Pruitt said...

I'm not surprised. From day one the project has been based on anecdotes and not actual data...

Anonymous said...

I think you are crazy.

Jimmy Dean, CPA

Robert Enders said...

The fact that you passed the CPA exam is most impressive. Does it qualify you to diagnose mental illness?

Now, layman can recognize symptoms, and that recognition what gets people to seek professional help. What symptoms do you see in Mike and/or Jeff that makes you think that they are, as you say, "crazy"?

Blog Sheriff said...

Robert,

You should not be posting comments and drinking wine at the same time. You sound like Gloria after she's had a few too many. Now sir, slowly step away from the keyboard and face the wall...

Robert Enders said...

First of all I don't drink, and neither does Gloria. Secondly, anyone claiming to be law enforcement, a CPA, or a physician needs to show credentials.

And finally, I take the First Amendment as seriously as Carlton Heston takes the Second Amendment. They can have my modem when the pry it from my cold, dead hands.

Bobby G. said...

Mike:
You don't want to know how I "REALLY" think about "Costaplenty" Square (this being a *G* rated blog and all), so I will say one word only:

It SUCKS!

(OK..TWO words)

;)

B.G.

Anonymous said...

Who the *$#& is Carlton Heston? Just giving you a hard time, Robert.

Anonymous said...

Funny guys.

Jimmy Dean, CPA

Robert Enders said...

I'm glad you like our humor. Instead of just posting crap from YouTube, we write all of our own jokes.

A little hint, Jimmy. Convincing political rhetoric is usually longer than 5 words.

Phil Marx said...

Mike,

From the beginning there were people who firmly supported or opposed this project. But I believe a large number of people were undecided, and simply wanted more information. The city's response to this was pathetic. For example:

1)Mark Becker included the original building cost of Memorial Stadium in his projected future cost of maintaining this location. Mike, I'm sure that you don't need anyone to tell you that a sunk cost is irrelevant when calculating future options, but apparently Becker does. I assume he manipulated the numbers in this manner to make the difference in costs between the two options (maintaining current location vs. moving downtown)seem smaller than they actually were.

2)During a city council meeting (July 17, I think)it was revealed that the city paid far more to acquire the land than it was getting for selling it to the developers. Councilman Schmidt asked if this differential amount should be considered a subsidy.

Greg Leatherman responded by stating that this amount was for relocation and loss of equipment. No matter what the reason for it, this still does not negate the fact that this amount was in fact a subsidy. Letterman’s response was an attempt to deflect this question, and it worked.

Had he given a straight-forward answer, I expect that Schmidt's next move would have been to question whether this amount was included in the proposal being considered. Instead Schmidt, probably coming to the realization that he was not going to get an accurate appraisal, let out a sigh and moved on.

3)One council member questioned whether the proposed number of parking spaces would be adequate for the large number of people expected to be visiting Harrison Square. Becker’s response to this included his estimate that there would be an average of three people per car.

I've never studied this in a formal manner, but that doesn't sound right to me. You see a lot of cars with one or two people. That means to have an average of three, there would have to be a lot of four and five person cars. This doesn't seem to reflect the reality of what I see when I am driving around.

If H.S is as successful as the proponents are estimating, then we probably will have parking problems. And the city will then ask for more money to correct this. But if this information were put out front, further revealing the true cost of the project, more people might oppose it.



Our city "leaders" have shown that they are willing to say or do just about anything to get this project pushed through. So, as to your being stonewalled on your requests for information, I'm not at all surprised.

What's sad is that while they consider this a victory, they are not looking at the long-term consequences of their shrewd techniques. Future projects that may be more worthy than Harrison Squander will probably come up. And large numbers of people will dismiss them out-of-hand because our "leaders" have shown that they can't be trusted to give a full an honest appraisal of the situation.

Nelson said...

Here's the thing I don't understand - you asked for 'a copy of how those numbers were reached', and Mr. Manges' response was responsive - they were negotiated. I doubt there are documents that cover the negotiations... Do you think the baseball stadium people, or the hotel people, and the Mayor's office sent Excel spreadsheets back to one another? Have you ever negotiated to purchase anything - for example, a car? How'd that go?? You offer a price verbally, they decline, you up your offer verbally, etc... Or did you offer an Excel spreadsheet to the car dealer?

If you want different information, ask the right question.

Anonymous said...

Good grief is right - the newspaper published the amount of money spent on land acquisition by parcel. Perhaps instead of blogging all day, you could read the newspaper!

Please remember, Zogby polls only represent the thoughts of people with enough free time to waste answering what basically equates to telephone spam...

R. M. K. said...

Hi, I stumbled on your blog and am shocked to read that the city doesn't have a break down in dollars and cents on paper and bases verbal agreements on such costly investments in the millions. I admit i don't keep up with current city spending of our tax dollars. I will keep reading you and thanks for what you are doing by having your blog getting inportant information out for those who want to read it! R.M.K.

Anonymous said...

I am 100% against building a facility for such a crummy team as the "Lizards". Since their owners are the developers, we are stuck with the bums.

I noticed in the paper the other day that the city wants to raise parking fees in order to "encourage" more people to go downtown. Nice thinking!