Put City Center on ballot, Carson library board says
Taking a page from City Center Project opponents, the library board voted Thursday to ask the Board of Supervisors to put the issue on the November ballot – but didn’t recommend a way to pay for it.
If supervisors agree, they’d have to decide how to fund it, and they’d face the possibility that their initiative could be competing on the ballot with a similar measure for which project opponents and skeptics are gathering signatures.
“With this, we’re starting the conversation, and we anticipate we’ll have discussions with the Board of Supervisors,” library board member Robin Williamson said of Thursday’s vote.
The former city supervisor said that it would be best not to make suggestions for funding.
“We don’t know if the petitioners will want to step back or go with their wording,” she said.
The nearly $50 million proposed City Center Project includes a Knowledge + Discovery Center as its anchor, a plaza, a parking garage and related infrastructure.
In September, supervisors voted 4-1 to move forward with the project, using $23.8 million from redevelopment and landfill fees and tasking the library foundation with raising $21.5 in private funding.
But in February, a group wanting to give voters a chance to decide whether the city should make such a large investment began circulating a petition that reads: “No public funding shall be used for the proposed Carson City Center Project … without a majority vote of the people approving such funding.”
With the library board’s action Thursday, city supervisors will get a chance to take another look at their September action and consider the following options:
• Affirm the Sept. 15 public-private funding mechanism.
• Ask voters to approve public funding in any combination supervisors determine appropriate.
• Ask voters to approve a quarter-cent sales tax increase.
• Have the petitioners’ question go to ballot as it is written.
About 30 people – both supporters and opponents – attended Thursday’s meeting. Several spoke during the public-comment portion.
Resident Bill Davies said the timing of the project is bad.
“This is a fantastic project. … Twelve years ago it would have been fantastic, but now everyone is broke. I think you need to put a hold on it,” he said.
Dave Armstrong said ballot advisory questions can be ineffective.
“The V&T (Railroad) was put on the ballot, and it was opposed (by the voters), but (supervisors) passed it, anyway, and now they’re having problems paying for the bond,” he said.
Ron Orbas said the ballot question should have teeth in it.
“It should be binding, not just advisory, given the state of the economy and the amount of money involved in this project,” he said.
Eugene Paslov, an outspoken supporter of the project, disputed the petitioners’ assertions that most Carsonites oppose the project.
“There is strong support for this effort. A lot of contractors support it; the downtown businesses support it. We need to do something to revitalize our downtown,” Paslov said.
Library Director Sara Jones said the library foundation was nearly halfway to raising its $21.5 million in private money, but several would-be contributors backed out recently due to the controversy.
“Time lost is opportunity lost,” she said. “At this time, we can commit only $6 million, but the land remains a gift.”
Dennis Johnson said that if the library were a standalone municipal project with no private involvement, he wouldn’t have any problem with it.
“And if the voters approve it, that’s fine with me,” he said.
Phyllis Patton, with Friends of the Carson City Library, said that without the partnership, which includes the donated Nugget parking lot land, there is no project.
“We can provide 300,000 people to the downtown, and without that, I think this city is going to die when the freeway comes through here,” she said.
Results from a recent, unscientific, Nevada Appeal online poll show opposition to the project trumping support by a margin of more than 2 to 1.