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Tough questions

Shall the City of Solon, in Johnson County, Iowa, enter into a loan agreement and borrow money in an amount not to exceed $1,350,000 for the purpose of paying the cost, to that extent, of acquiring, improving, furnishing and equipping land and facilities located at 100 South Cedar Street, commonly known as the Brosh Chapel and Community Center, for use as a City Hall and Community Center?

The city has been promoting its vision for a new city hall, and while there’s no formal opposition to the Nov. 8 bond issue, there have been some questions from the public.
We thought we’d give the city an opportunity to address some of the concerns we’ve been hearing in our discussions with Solon residents. The city’s responses are paraphrased.

1) Why does the city need such a large facility? Isn’t this more than we need?
Mayor Rick Jedlicka: The vision of the city extends out for a very long time. Will it take a long time to fill it? Yes. But I like to point out that we’ve done a lot of growing in the last 10 years. You put the city administrator’s office in and an office for the city clerk and make an office for Public Works Director Scott Kleppe, because he really should eventually be in with the city’s administration, an office for parks and recreation and an office for the mayor, and you can see where it could fill up pretty quickly. If you compare it to what we have now, sure, it’s a lot bigger. But if you condensed all our locations together, it makes sense. I know this has been a concern for a lot of people. But when an opportunity like this presents itself, the city needs to take it. It would be short-sighted to get something that just fits our needs now and be forced to move again at some point in the future.
This is not to satisfy an immediate need, this is a long-term need. At some point in the future, there might be city police or add clerical staff. If the opportunity is available now, take advantage so you don’t have to relocate because of a lack of vision.

2) The city says the lower level will be a community event center, but there’s currently a lease between the current owner and a previous owner for use of the lower level. How’s that going to work?
City Administrator Cassandra Lippincott: Previous owner Terry Brosh is leasing back the lower level from the current owner for $1,000 a month. The lease could be left in place under the city, so there is the possibility it could be another 12 years. In the meantime, that would be guaranteed rental income for the city. But it really hasn’t been decided. I try to tell people to remember we’re looking to buy the building for a long-term vision, and not to focus too much on the short term. If the lease continues, the city does anticipate being able to use the lower level, but maybe not for holding meetings. We haven’t nailed it down yet, but the city is hoping it can negotiate some use of the lower level for recreation programs, even under a scenario where the lease continues.

3) The city says this project will help spur economic development. Is there something the city has missed out on because of its present city office location?
Mayor Rick Jedlicka: It’s not what we lost out on, it’s what we want the city to look like. When people come to our community, they see all the wonderful things we’ve done in the last 10 years, yet the city hall is dated. You look at all the improvements made in Solon between the city, the school, the churches, the commercial areas– this is one area we haven’t made improvements. When you pull up to the city office, it looks like 1960.

4) If the asking price and the appraised value are the same, is this really a bargain?
Mayor Rick Jedlicka: We’re not overpaying the seller and we’re not underpaying the seller. With public funds, you have an obligation to be fair. The property was appraised as it sits, with no adjustment for future use. It will have future value. The parking lot across the street presents an option in the future that could be a city building or a commercial site. I think it’s a fair estimate of the value.

Couldn’t this money be used for other projects?
Mayor Rick Jedlicka: The council is committed to continuing improvements on curb and gutter. It is an ongoing plan that spreads out over the entire community. This doesn’t impact the continuation of those projects. We budget for those basic improvements, but this is above and beyond that.