Being prudent stewards

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 20, 2005

There’s been more than a fair share of controversy surrounding tonight’s scheduled public hearing over the proposed sale of the Jefferson Street School.

Issues have included the request for proposal process, the proposed selling price and even the banking relationship between the mayor and the developer whose bid the city administration is recommending council accept.

All are legitimate concerns and it’s a misrepresentation to paint individuals who have posed them as being &uot;negative&uot; or &uot;obstructionist.&uot;

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There is no question that developer Mickey Garcia, whose Garcia Development Corporation is the odds on favorite to be awarded the project, does great work and we have every reason to believe that if his bid is successful, his will be a first class development that will be a huge asset and one in which the community can take great pride. The best way to judge what a person will do in the future is what they have done in the past and Garcia’s past work in Suffolk on College Court and other downtown commercial and residential properties has been nothing short of fantastic. We can’t think of another developer in whom we would have more confidence.

In addition, there’s no denying that the city’s strategy of attracting development with cut-rate pricing and guaranteed long-term leases has been wonderfully successful and the key to the renaissance being experienced downtown.

Be that as it may, city council’s job – as officials have stated repeatedly in connection with the Mattanock Town issue – is to be good stewards of the public’s assets and get the best possible price out of them.

With that in mind, with developers apparently lining up to invest in Suffolk, asking whether we still need to bargain-basement pricing public assets to attract investment is a legitimate one and the key issue council and city staff need to confront before a vote is taken.

And with so much interest in investment in our community, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that prudent stewards of the public’s assets would question a bidding process that attracted only three proposals.

We trust, as officials have stated, that everything has been done properly and that the deal council decides to make is in the best interests of city. By the same, token we all want downtown to continue to grow and proper. Many people have a huge stake – their own money, not someone else’s – in seeing to it that it does. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean any deal should not be scrutinized from every angle. We would expect nothing less from a prudent steward of the public’s assets.