At last Thursday’s city council meeting, municipal corporate attorney Shane Gibson finally stated publicly what we’d assumed all along about the variety of options to "save" the Reisz Furniture Store.
According to Gibson, there are only two options. It’s Jeff Gahan’s way, or the landfill.
Gahan’s $10,000,000 project to renovate the horribly “neglected, dilapidated and blighted” building and create a luxury city hall commensurate with the mayor’s grandiose self-image is intended as an either/or proposition.
Gibson told councilmen that if the city’s back-alley deal with Denton Floyd falls through, there are no other choices aside from demolition. Either the city spends a minimum of $10,000,000, or there’ll be a hole in the ground.
Anyone listening to Gibson should have asked a simple question.
Last August, the Redevelopment Commission approved a payment of $750,000 to Denton Floyd, from which roughly $400,000 was intended from the very start to be used by the contractor to buy the building from Schmitt Furniture.
According the Elevate website, this purchase occurred in September, a month after the meeting, which strongly implies the real estate transaction was complete save for the cash.
Returning to Gibson's ultimatum, how can the city demolish a building owned by someone else, in this case a firm with which Gahan and cohorts are closerthanthis? Certainly there are ways, but the larger point is the disposition of the money we’ve already spent.
The city might well condemn the building and demolish it – and if so, the city’s out $750,000.
Or, Denton Floyd might ask to demolish it, and city still is out $750,000, but Denton Floyd used the city's money, anyway, leaving it free to return to being behind schedule and over budget on the M Fine seniors housing conversion just up Main Street.
As an aside, Denton Floyd undertakes few large-scale projects without voluminous government assurances, whether here or in Jeffersonville. But that’s for another time.
Back to Gibson’s question time before council, which by all rights should have been Gibson’s and Gahan’s joint appearance. The corporate attorney blithely assured onlookers that if the mayor isn’t handed his palace forthwith, the building’s a goner.
Where does it say all this?
The Redevelopment Commission voted unanimously last August in favor of resolution (RC-06-17), enabling the $750,000 windfall payment to Denton Floyd, as well as smaller payments toward the Louis Hartman House on State Street (future home of Indiana Landmarks; no self-interest THERE) and the Knights of Columbus.
Commission stalwart and Democratic Party chairman Adam Dickey's minutes detail the discussion.
The meeting minutes make no mention of the dollar amounts involved, but then-reporter Elizabeth Beilman of the News and Tribune included them in her coverage of the meeting.
The overarching point is that while details aren't always discussed aloud, they're included in the text of the resolution, accompanying legal documents, or both.
You know, like a contract.
And: Throughout city council’s discussion of the Reisz project, from May 2018 to the present, including the 35 or 36 questions for Gibson to answer or artfully evade last Thursday, the actual text of the resolution and the content of accompanying legal documents have not been seen … by anyone, on council or off, although presumably the council’s two redevelopment representative at the time, David Barksdale and Bob Caesar (the latter since replaced) viewed the terms.
These details are kinda important, aren’t they?
Would any self-respecting attorney merely hand a $750,000 check to a contractor without specific language about the terms of the transaction taking place? There'd be signatures, right?
And wouldn't there be detailed explanations of contingencies, the simplest being things like insurance coverage and time frames?
Or are we to believe that former (seriously?) redevelopment chieftain David Duggins brought a briefcase filled with C-notes to the limousine for Denton Floyd's public-officials-only Keeneland junket (with paid models) last September?
Isn't it impossible to believe that the Redevelopment Commission resolution and/or legal agreements between the city and Denton Floyd explaining the $750,000 payment AREN’T accompanied by more than a post-it note reading “if it doesn’t happen, just keep the money and tear down that motherfucka”?
Furthermore, if the resolution and/or legal documents discuss other possibilities and contingencies beyond demolition for the Reisz, then the entire truth wasn’t being told last Thursday night ... and if Barksdale and Caesar knew otherwise as they sat listening, doesn't their silence speaks volumes?
Until this information is made public, how can city council proceed with a vote next Monday?
Here's the text of my e-mail this morning to Barksdale and redevelopment director Josh Staten. Don't forget Wednesday's meeting at the library:
Stop the Reisz Elephant: There'll be a public meeting on Wednesday, June 27, downstairs at the library, at 6:00 p.m.
The topic is RC-06-17, the Redevelopment Commission's ordinance of 08/08/2017, described in the meeting's minutes as being titled "Resolution Promoting Historic Preservation, Economic Development, and Blight Removal.
The meeting minutes for 08/08/2017, which are available on-line, include a detailed discussion of this resolution, but the minutes neither make mention of funding amounts, nor include the text of the resolution itself.
However, in Elizabeth Beilman's coverage of the meeting for the News and Tribune, she quotes a figure of "$826,000 in total funding commitments for the Reisz Furniture building, the Louis Hartman House on State Street and the Knights of Columbus," of which $750,000 for the Reisz project is specified.
Consequently, in terms of public information, we know the nature of the discussion about the resolution. We also know the dollar amounts, courtesy of the newspaper reporter. But we have not seen the text of resolution RC-06-17, and for this reason I'm writing to you today to request a copy of the resolution.
I'm happy to visit the office to pick this up, or you can e-mail it to this address. I trust this will be promptly rendered.