by Lisa Kuzela on Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 4:53pm
Here are the facts:
February 10, 2011 Cedar Rapids City Council discusses and chooses site for new library. It was between Emerald Knights, Gazette, and True North. Emerald Knights was the least expensive and the only one that did not take on any flood.
The citizen-based Library Board recommended the Gazette location. Second, was Emerald Knights. Third place, True North.
How the funding works: FEMA approves the acquisition cost for the purchase of the least expensive option (in this case, Emerald Knights), with local government having to make up the difference. This amount was $3.5 million. That’s why the City has $3.5 million from FEMA toward the acquisition cost for the library.
In spite of the presentation saying True North costing MILLIONS more than Emerald Knights, Council, with a swing vote, approves moving the Public Library to the True North site.
Emerald Knight supporters: Kris Gullick, Don Karr, Chuck Wieneke, Ron Corbett.
True North supporters: Monica Vernon, Justin Shields, Pat Shey, Tom Podzimek.
Swing voter (originally voting for Gazette site, respectfully going along with what the citizens’ Library Board recommended, yet did not use that same rationale for his second place), Chuck Swore.
At the time of this decision, True North did not own the property. It was owned by: Busse Investments, Inc., Jeff Busse, and Laverne T. Busse. In March 2010, they sold the property to True North for a total of $3.66 million.
Note: it was assessed pre-flood as well as post-flood at $1.5 million.
Note: it was flooded in the basement and several inches on first floor.
September 28, 2010 Council approves to purchase the property for $7.5 million.
During the combined November / December meeting, the citizens’ Local Option Sales Tax Oversight Committee voted overwhelmingly, 5-2, against using LOST funds for the acquisition of the library.
December 14, 2010 Council approves to spend $4 million of LOST funds to make up the difference that FEMA is paying. The City purchases the property for $7.5 million with an agreement to pay 50% of the cost of delays if the delays are the City’s fault, for up to $375,000.
February, 3, 2011, the LOST Oversight Committee meets. City auditor presents a matrix spreadsheet that states that Council obligated / approved $4.8 million of LOST funds for the Public Library acquisition. Lisa Kuzela questions the auditor on this, stating that Council approved only $4 million. In addition, “why isn’t the actual disbursement / payment listed in our matrix spreadsheet and the detailed list of expenditures?” Oh! It hasn’t been spent yet. Okay,…
But, REALLY??? …
No! Because, then Lisa finds that it WAS already spent according to the City’s “Weekly Paid Claims for the week of January 11th.
January 11, 2011, under the City’s “Weekly Paid Claims,” True North receives their full $7.5 million, paying – not $4 million from LOST – but $4.8 million. This is $800,000 over and above what Council approved.
Therefore, this expenditure should’ve been on the list of expenditures the Oversight Committee received on February 3rd. There was plenty of time to put it on there. There are pages of other expenditures after that date listed on the detailed list of expenditures the Oversight Committee was given. So, why did our own city auditor not include this $4.8 million LOST expenditure information to the Oversight Committee? Because the check was for $800,000 more than what Council approved, that’s why.
The City of Cedar Rapids received the deed to this True North property on December 29, 2011. The deal was done and payments were made. (BTW, this was a mere FIFTEEN days after Council approved spending $4 million from LOST to make up the gap between the $7.5 million purchase price and the $3.5 million FEMA covered. Why can’t they move that fast with the flood victims’ buyouts?)
Just think, if our city bought the True North site directly from the owners at the time they decided to put the library there, FEMA would’ve paid for the entire acquisition, and there wouldn’t have been any LOST money needed.