Monday, March 20, 2017
Voter input on public facilities "not recommended"
In a press release sent out Friday the town started to make its case.
As Davidson’s population has grown from 4,000 in 1990 to almost 13,000 today, we have outgrown our existing town hall. Ensuring adequate space for our police and fire departments is particularly critical. We need to invest in our public facilities in order to keep pace with our service needs. We will study the approximately 4 acres of town-owned land on which our current town hall sits.
This is not the catalyst project where we were considering private-public partnerships to solve some of our space and parking needs on this land. However, as part of the catalyst process, we heard from hundreds of citizens that recognize our lack of parking downtown and a need for space at town hall.
At their July 12, 2016 meeting, the Davidson Board of Commissioners asked town staff to move forward with planning for our public facilities and to look at parking options.
Town staff have been working with a steering committee comprised of citizen experts in the fields of planning, architecture, construction, etc. to help guide the process and select an architect. Architect Creech & Associates have many years of experience in designing effective town halls, have conducted a space needs assessment of Davidson Town Hall, and will facilitate the public workshops. This spring they will create a preliminary design based on citizen feedback and then provide us with a budget estimate. In early summer, plan options and a budget will be presented to the board of commissioners for a decision on whether to move forward with the project
There is even a survey to gather input (none of the above is not an option).
However, the Town of Davidson likely does not want your feedback on one aspect of this project - how the town will pay for it.
At Thursday's Civics 101 class Town Manager Jamie Justice was asked if the town might use General Obligation Bonds, sometimes called GO Bonds. GO Bonds require voter approval.
aShortChronicle was interested in the response as we've been trying to get an answer to that question. In fact, just on March 9th Public Information Officer, Christina Shaul answered that question by saying...
"If the Davidson Board of Commissioners decide to go forward with a public facilities project, once they have a better sense of the cost estimate, they will examine a variety of options to finance it. This will be a topic at multiple board meetings this spring and summer, so we encourage citizens to listen to the discussions and share their thoughts."
So, what did Town Manager, Jamie Justice, say to the Citizen at Civics 101 just a week later when asked if public facilities spending might be put up for a vote?
"Not recommended," was the answer. While trying to explain that answer Justice asked what he seemed to think was rhetorical question. "What if the voters say no?"
Painting what will likely be the picture for how the town will strong arm this one through, Justice tried to justify avoiding the voters by playing the public safety card. Davidson's Police and Fire Departments do in fact need more space. What would they do if voters turned this down???
That argument however ignores another important fact. This public facilities study is also looking at parking and significantly expanded space for the rest of Town staff. Those things could end up being quite expensive and are also less necessary.
Justice did at least close his answer by saying ultimately the decision to seek voter input was up to the Board. Regardless, citizens and voters should be very wary of any plan not strong enough to face them without reservation.
You can watch this exchange starting at the 15:30 mark of this video.