proposition. It is clear that they want to satisfy the voting
public – an admirable trait in elected officials – but do they
remember what it was the voters actually asked for?
Watching the Morgan Hill City Council spend money is a scary proposition. It is clear that they want to satisfy the voting public – an admirable trait in elected officials – but do they remember what it was the voters actually asked for?
The RDA visioning process turned out some pretty simple requests: someplace for kids and adults to keep busy – meaning a recreation center, a swimming pool and, possibly, a community center.
The voters did not ask for a five-pool, regional aquatic center rivaling that of larger, wealthier communities to the north. They asked for a place to take their kids on hot summer afternoons.
They did not ask for a playhouse – though, we have to admit, when the council presented them with one it was a gem.
The voters really did not ask for a gorgeous, multi-purpose $21 million community center with a separate building for Gavilan College. In fact they were a bit unclear about what they would use a community center for. Maybe an art room and a banquet hall. Now that it is built, of course, people are flocking there to meetings, getting married and entertained.
The point here is that, if you build it they will use it. But we question whether we are building wealthy Palo Alto-style facilities with little, pleasant Morgan Hill’s resources. Can the city continue to afford these magnificent (in scope and cost) projects? While the projects were built with the ever-dwindling Redevelopment Agency money, they must be maintained and operated from the general fund.
After the recent orgy of public facility building, it would seem there is no longer enough money left to build the indoor recreation center/youth/senior center. To save costs here we like Councilwoman Hedy Chang’s suggestion that a slimmed-down version be located on the sports complex/aquatic center site on Condit Avenue, moved from the proposed site on West Edmundson Avenue.
And selling the Edmundson property – or at least a portion of it – would add welcome millions to the city’s coffers.
Slimming down could include eliminating the senior center part of the indoor center. Revamping the present center, the Friendly Inn, instead could give the oldsters nicer digs years earlier – which they’d love – and save a pile of money to boot.
The aquatic center has total buy-in from Mayor Dennis Kennedy and Councilman Larry Carr. Carr was behind the playhouse coming to fruition – since there is no way on earth it would have happened without his refusing to take no for an answer.
Even Chang, who questions the spending of funds more than any other council member, was a mover and shaker behind the community center.
It may seem ungrateful to question the motives of these civic parents, happily doling out the goodies but – as much as we like and enjoy the results of this profligate spending – other, more basic, needs are going by the wayside.
The specter of budget shortfalls haunt the Morgan Hill City Hall just as it does the capitol in Sacramento. Our fair city does have a certain – but finite – undesignated reserve fund. This fund won’t last forever and we would prefer to see more restrained spending.
A good place to start is with the aquatic center. We know there are active, involved swimmers in town, chomping at the bit to dive in and begin hosting regional swim meets. But the city acknowledges the place won’t pay for itself for years and the general fund is in no condition to offer the required subsidies.
A delay of one year before beginning construction would give the economy time to straighten up and fly right, which would, in turn, give the city a better financial picture from which support this new, spectacular facility. Yes, we know a delay would hugely disappoint the aquatic community and we feel for them, but times are really, really tight.
Stop before you spend again.