"...that the city is likely the last resort to fill the gap..." - Granite Grok

“…that the city is likely the last resort to fill the gap…”

We have several informal mottoes here at GraniteGrok.  One is self-evident – “we annoy people” (mostly the ones that need annoying).  The other one is a tangential off-shoot of what the late US Speaker of the House “Tip”  O’Neill’s quote of “All politics is local

If it is happening here, it is probably happening in your town too!

So, with the title of the post above, the question is “which city?”  And the answer is our motto, above!  Once again, the Laconia City Fathers are about to make all my dreams of wrong headed Government come true: they ARE going to spend a lot more of other peoples’ money in order to save their own pride is jumping headlong into the rathole of the Colonial Theater that private developers wouldn’t even come close to touching.  This is a great example, thus far, of the Hayek’ hubris of knowledge: that a few concentrated elected politicians know better than the vast distributed decision making of the public.  And the public is about to get it good and hard.  At least the Mayor’s paper, the Laconia Daily Sun, is being truthful about it this time (reformatted, emphasis mine):

City may consider putting more money into Colonial project

The city, which has already promised $5.1 million in support for revitalizing the Colonial Theatre, will likely have to commit more money to the project if it is to go forward now that anticipated federal tax credits have fallen through. Mayor Ed Engler told city councilors on Monday night to be ready for a financial request at their June 24 meeting.

“By the 24th Councilor Hamel and I, as your representatives on the Colonial Theatre steering committee, will be coming forward with a report on the status of that project and very possibly we’ll be coming forward with a request for more city money,” he said. “That number hasn’t been set yet, but there is definitely a possibility, if not a probability, that Councilor Hamel and I will be coming forward asking for the city to put more money into the Colonial project.”

At least private developers, once realizing that a project should be killed off, will make the hard decisions to kill it off and write off their money that was misspent. The above “face-savers” don’t have to worry about that – it’s Laconia taxpayers’ monies that they are playing with.  Hey, Ed Engler – how much of your own stash have you put into this relative to the millions more that will be required?  You, too, City Councilor Hamel?  What’s your skin in the game?

Or better yet, why didn’t the two of you spearhead this yourselves instead of dragging all of the townfolk into it.  Sure, some may well be super-fans of the idea and why not?  They aren’t bearing the full costs themselves. Others, if they’ve been tracking this financial boondoogle from the get go, not so much.  And then there’s this – with quite a bit done already, perhaps private developers MIGHT (given the money spent already MIGHT be making the project financially possible) be interested IF they no longer had to partner with any of the organizations currently involved with this project – but shucking them all off may not be worthwhile yet either.

The long-delayed revitalization of the 105-year-old theater is intended to jump-start downtown revitalization. Backers of the $15 million project learned on May 23 it would not be receiving $4.8 million in federal New Market Tax Credits needed to complete the complicated financing package. There are significant fees associated with the tax credits, so funding required to make up the shortfall would be substantially less than $4.8 million.

Yep, yep.  Nobody ought to be surprised at this – “free” government money always comes with strings attache – and look, NOBODY has brought up what those “non-financial strings” would be, eh?  My hamlet’s current bandstand was built for the nation’s bicentennial and Lord help us if the village decided to ditch it.  Or the outdoor skating rink.  Or….

But one thing is for sure, there’s always ONE string that the local politicians control – and that’s YOU:

Mayor Ed Engler said the exact size of the shortfall is still being estimated and that the city is likely the last resort to fill the gap. “Realistically, there really isn’t an alternative if we are to go forward,” he said. “It will be a tough decision for the City Council.”

Tough decision?  Ha!  At this point, what do you think the over/under is on this bet, eh?  Years spent, millions of taxpayer monies already spent – and “legacies” yet to be written as it’s been the same City Councilors for years on this (except for the one that has been the sanest, Ed Cheney, that kept asking “What’s Plan B, or C, or…?” but never got an answer).  Already, CYA mode is setting in:

Justin Slattery, a spokesman for the Belknap County Economic Development Council, which has been organizing the project, did not have specifics when asked about the shortfall Tuesday.

I can confirm there is a funding gap for the Colonial project and we are working hard to identify funding sources to fill that gap with our funding partners and the City,” he said in an email.

In other words, Justin Slattery is not being all that truthful as he just confirmed:

We have NO idea of what we’re doing and NO idea of how to fix what we’ve gotten ourselves into. We were HOPEing, too, and that was our only strategy.

So what will be the plan, Stan?

Revitalizing the Colonial was proposed four years ago, but construction has been delayed amid increasing cost estimates for restoring the ornate theater and problems assembling money to pay for the work. The city loaned the Belknap County Economic Development Council $1.4 million to buy the theater, which once hosted Vaudeville acts and was a multi-screen cinema before being shuttered. The city has been receiving interest payments on its loan to the development council. City leaders have pledged significant additional support contingent on the rest of the financing coming together. They promised to ultimately loan $4.2 million for the project and provide an additional $900,000 to buy theater equipment.

So BCEDC, a quasi-govt entity (sorta) gets money from govt of Laconia – and can’t pay the loan unless another government entity forks up the money.  And more will be needed. And just think, this is how “affordable workforce housing” is done, too (mostly – govt entity being washed from one entity to another to another…..)!  Such a deal, such a country!

So, who else is vying for these New Market Tax Credits?  Like I said, if it is happening here, it’s happening in your town too!  And that would be Nashua – once again, HOPE is their strategy in building their own version.  It’s been fun reading about it but except for some of the details (like a lot more $$), it’s the same sad story.  At least the Colonial Theater was an actual theater – the Nashua City Fathers have been trying to do their version in an old shoe store.

(H/T: Laconia Daily Sun)