Please review this and then contact MayorandCommissioners@cityofwinterpark.org to express your opinion.
City Commissioners Phil Anderson and Beth Dillaha have put forth a Motion for discussion at the August 10, 2009 City Commission meeting to proceed with fund raising related to having the City purchase the post office property on New York Avenue. This motion (see pages 54 – 58) is based on the principle that “no taxpayer funds will be used.” However, preliminary financial projections used to justify the Motion omit known critical elements and costs, and significantly underestimate the donations required to complete the proposed project where “no taxpayer funds will be used.”
Based on the contract (see pages 187-230) and written communications with the USPS, the City will have to pay the USPS at least $2,000,000 in addition to paying the cost of building both a new retail post office and a postal service distribution facility to USPS specifications in return for the USPS transferring title to their land on New York Avenue to the City. These monies are absent from the analysis supporting the Motion.
The cost of constructing facilities for the USPS is estimated by consultants hired by the City to be $3,228,000 excluding the value of land to be given to the USPS for a distribution center. This estimate is not shown to include any contingency. It is also not clear whether this estimate has been created based on known specifications provided by the USPS as required by contract.
The City owns a 5 acres site on Denning Drive and has been offered as much as $10,000,000 for this property on an informal basis. In the current soft real estate market the value of 1 to 2 acres of this property given to the USPS could still reasonably be in the range of $1,500,000 to $2,500,000.
The City would receive approximately one acre of the current post office property to convert to park. The fair market value of this land as park is significantly below its value as currently zoned. Any fair comparative appraisal of 1 to 2 acres of the commercial Denning property for one acre of the current post office property to be used as park can be reasonably expected to leave at least a $1,000,000 to $2,000,000 differential in value to be made up by donations. These monies are absent from the analysis supporting the Motion.
Further, any proceeds from the sale of City owned land on Swope constitute taxpayer funds and need to be removed from the analysis accordingly.
A more accurate estimate of the total donations required to avoid using taxpayer funds to complete the project contemplated by the proposed motion exceeds $7,000,000, not $2,646,000 as included in the analysis supporting the motion.
Construction costs = 3,228,000
Construction contingency at 10% = 322,800
Contract value to the USPS = 2,000,000
Land value differential Denning vs New York = 1,500,000
As a matter of full and fair disclosure, as a matter of responsible planning, and to fulfill the commitment not to use taxpayer funds; any City Commission agreement to pursue the proposed motion must represent that at least $7,000,000 in private donations must be deposited under irrevocable agreements before the City will be authorized to make any commitment with the USPS to acquire USPS property on New York Avenue.
Further, as a matter of responsible planning the City Commission should not approve any fund raising plan before the City’s building consultant can certify estimated construction costs for new USPS facilities based on plans submitted by the USPS that fully detail specifications as required by the existing contract with the City. There is no reason to proceed based on rough estimates when construction costs can be known with relative certainty based on detailed plans to known specifications.
Note that the City Commission could ask the voters to determine whether to borrow funds to complete the proposed project by referendum. Those supporting this acquisition will not support a referendum because they know it will never pass. It will never pass because it is a bad deal for the City. Why on earth would we pay $7,000,000 for one acre of new park when we recently purchased most of the Winter Park golf course (20+ acres) for $8,000,000? Well, of course we would not.
Those supporting the acquisition of the post office property are intentionally low balling the amount of donations required to complete this project, hoping they can make up the difference with “taxpayer funds” without us noticing, while at the same time telling us that “no taxpayer funds will be used.” (Is this really the way we want Winter Park politics to operate? Keep this in mind for the March 2010 election.)
Please contact MayorandCommissioners@cityofwinterpark.org and tell them to stop the misrepresentations and obfuscation. Tell them if they want to buy the post office they should support a referendum seeking the approval of the voters and stop playing games.