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Clearing the air over council town hall issue

MAIA SCHNEIDER

I would like to take this opportunity to “clear the air” about last week’s guest editorial by Bob Tamietti and recent questions raised over the Town Council’s unanimous decision to purchase the old bank building on Airport Road to serve as an interim Town Hall.

It is important that councilmembers receive citizen input related to decisions that we make – either before or (in this case) after we have made that decision. All information is helpful and even if it arrives after the fact it may at least help in subsequent decisions.

I acknowledge and respect Bob’s opinions, and I understand that some of his comments were based purely on his individual philosophy of where the facility should be located.

The council (and the planning commission) publicly discussed alternative town hall sites on several occasions, and from a long-term perspective the council came to much the same conclusion as Bob – that some day the permanent town hall should be centrally located in Truckee.

In fact, in recent deliberations the council agreed that continuing to budget for the “Town Hall Reserve” fund is an important step in keeping that vision alive. The council has publicly stated that the bank building should be considered a temporary (i.e. 7-10 year) site, and the ultimate goal of this council is to secure a permanent site consistent with the long-term vision of our community.

The ultimate decision that the council came to was that this purchase was the right decision for this time in our history, just as renting from the TDPUD was the right decision for that time in our history. Some day the town council may well consider using public redevelopment funds to help create a civic center site as Bob suggests, but that cannot be in our immediate future for a number of reasons.

First, the redevelopment agency was only recently created and therefore won’t have any operating revenues for several years to come.

Second, even when it does have its first modest income, the public will likely demand that revenue be spent on helping improve our commercial and historic core – not build public buildings. And finally, it’s illegal to use redevelopment funds to build city halls. Redevelopment is a tool to help leverage private sector investment and some day in the future it will be of great benefit to Truckee – but probably not with Town Hall and probably not very soon.

As for the comment that we’re “moving to the suburbs,” if you consider Bridge Street and Commercial Row as the center of town, the new site is 2 1/2 miles away.

Let’s see, at 30 miles per hour, that’s a five-minute drive. Hardly a commute worthy of the morning news, and as with the existing PUD building, the new site is served by the Truckee Trolley and Dial-a-Ride.

The folks in Sierra Meadows are closer to the new site, and people in Glenshire and the Prosser areas won’t have to deal with DPR traffic. And in fact, when the bypass is completed Prosser will be served even better. The fact also is that no matter where Town Hall is located it will be closer to some and farther from others.

Taking private land off of the tax roles is of major concern to the council. With the bank purchase, two thirds of the building will continue to be privately leased and through those leases the Common Area Maintenance (CAM) fee includes a property tax equivalency. The bank now owns the property and pays taxes to the County – and the town in turn receives only 14percent of those taxes back. When the town owns the building, the town retains 100 percent of the CAM fees; thus, the taxpayers of the town retain more of the tax equivalent. Buying a vacant piece of ground to build a town hall would truly take land off of the tax roles.

On balance, this fiscally prudent mid-term solution will provide a much-needed site for the Truckee Town Hall, while allowing our community to continue the quest for a permanent site.

I wanted to write this response to get some of the facts aired, not to be critical of Bob. I consider him both a friend and an ally. I also have a philosophy of strongly encouraging citizen input, and typically would not write responses to comments in the newspaper but rather consider those comments as I deliberate decisions put before the Council. However, this was a big decision for our council and it was not one that was made hastily nor in a vacuum. My fellow councilmembers and I received significant public comment both during public meetings and from our day-to-day contacts on the street. This input, from all viewpoints, will always be of the utmost importance to me.

PS: Bob, I’ll take that bet. I truly believe that this is an interim facility. Let’s see, you could take me to the Cottonwood in 2010, where we could dine overlooking the new town hall site . . .and let’s up the ante to $200, I’ll want champagne.

Maia Schneider is the Truckee mayor.


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