City Center Project moves forward without sales tax increase

Photos by Shannon Litz/Nevada AppealLibrary Director Sara Jones talks about the knowledge center on Thursday afternoon during the City Center meeting.

Photos by Shannon Litz/Nevada AppealLibrary Director Sara Jones talks about the knowledge center on Thursday afternoon during the City Center meeting.

Although Carson City will move on to the next step in refining the proposed $49.6 million City Center Project, the Board of Supervisors voted Thursday night to not include a 1/8-cent sales tax increase to help pay for the project.

Supervisor Shelly Aldean, who said she believed in the project, qualified herself prior to making the motion at the end of the five-hour meeting.

"I'm not in support of this project at any cost," she said. "If it doesn't look like it will work out financially, I may retract my 'yes' vote when it comes back to us."

After hearing from dozens of people both for and against the project, the motion passed 4-1 with Supervisor John McKenna opposing.

The $23.8 million publicly funded portion of the plan discussed at the meeting includes the Knowledge & Discovery Center, plaza, parking garage and related infrastructure. The remainder of the project - $26 million - would be funded with the donation of the land and money from the Mae B. Adams Trust, as well as with federal grants and private fundraising efforts.

Although precise financing details will be mapped out during the next phase of the project, the board decided Thursday to eliminate the sales tax revenue source as proposed and replace it with landfill fees to be generated by a recently approved landfill fee hike.

In addition, $11.3 million would come from redevelopment money and a one-time $500,000 contribution from city utility funds.

The remainder of the cost would be made up by anticipated money from both a federal economic development agency grant of $3 million and $18.3 million in private funds from the Mae B. Adams Trust and the fundraising efforts by the Carson City Library Foundation.

The vote included the caveat that no other financial obligation would be incurred until the development entity received the $21.2 million and land from the trust.

City staff now will begin working on the development of a proposed lease agreement for future consideration by the board using the simplified plan presented by H&K; Architects this week.

"We created a redevelopment area downtown because we decided that's what we needed to do there," said Mayor Bob Crowell, "and now we've been given an opportunity to develop that downtown."

Crowell said one of his main concerns was that he did not want to put the community in debt.

"Nothing (in the proposal) says we are creating debts or bonds, so we're not putting the city at risk," he said.

He said the project would make a statement that "we value education, we value culture and we value community."

His support was contingent on the assurance that the lease would not be something the city couldn't live with, and that all the private funds would be available before a shovel full of dirt was turned.

Also, if city money is used to cover the cost of refining the plans for the parking garage, the trust will reimburse the city that cost should the City Center Project eventually be abandoned.

Steve Neighbors, Nugget president and sole trustee of the Mae B. Adams Trust, said that as far as parking goes, the Nugget would prefer the surface parking it has, but if that land is given to the city, it will need to rely on the parking garage for its customers.

In casting the lone dissenting vote, McKenna said he did not believe the project was necessary.

"This project has nothing to do with the future or our youth. It's simply about building a civic building downtown and that's all it's about," he said.

Supervisor Karen Abowd said abandoning the project was not an option.

"Stagnation is what we're looking at (otherwise), and this is an opportunity to move forward," she said. "We will soon be bypassed by the freeway so we need to create a hub."

And Supervisor Molly Walt said as a parent trying to raise four children in Carson City, the project was imperative.

"We need to invest in our community, and it's not just about the youth, it's about people of all ages," she said.

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