Opponents distorted ice rink issue

Tue, 11/18/2008 - 4:57pm
By: Letters to the ...

Despite the fact that the [$9.95 million Peachtree City] recreation bond was defeated, I feel compelled to share my perspective.

It feels on some level this bond may have been defeated based on rumors and bad information. Although it seems the recreation bond was defeated by a large margin, the facts indicate that if only 13 citizens out of every 100 voted yes instead of no, the bond would have passed.

If the bond was truly defeated because citizens didn’t want an ice arena or if they truly believed they could not afford the projected $2.18 per month increase in taxes, it would make sense. But more often I heard, “I’m not paying for some guy to get rich.”

Based on my personal discussions with people, it appears it was primarily defeated because so many believed the city was funding a business that Dar Thompson or a private company was going to get “a kickback” or “get rich.”

I have spent the last two weeks not only asking as many people as I can what their “thoughts” were and why and how they voted, but I personally spoke with Dar Thompson on three occasions and questioned the accusations made against him.

Before last week, I didn’t know Dar Thompson. As only a 3-year resident of Peachtree City, I admit I don’t have the historic knowledge of politics here. I had the pleasure of meeting Dar two weeks ago and felt comfortable enough the first time we spoke to ask him, “Why do people think you are profiting and why are they so against you?”

I went back to The Citizen and read as many articles to understand both sides of the argument.

Again, the main reason this appears to have been defeated is a personal feeling that Dar, “One Man,” was going to “profit” from this venture and he wanted the city to fund it. People were offended that he had any part in this project.

The irony in all of this is that it is simply not true. Mr. Thompson did not have a financial interest in the ice complex. Because he suggested adding a “fitness center amenity,” the focus shifted and somehow it became “Dar’s” project.

The fitness center was intended as a small satellite location with some machines and cardio to be offered as an amenity for the parents whose kids were involved in the various sports activities at the complex.

The fitness center was 100 percent funded by the tenant; none of the taxpayers’ dollars would go to this project. In the end the city would have owned a building, an asset, it didn’t have to fund.

The bond for was for the ice complex, thus, if the sole purpose was to vote “no” because of “one man’s” involvement using the taxpayers’ dollar, I believe we were misinformed.

After speaking with Dar, it made perfect sense to me that someone like him would be the impetus to start a project like this. I personally think the city is blessed to have a resident as knowledgeable in business management to be working on its behalf to bring this type of amenity to the city.

If not Dar Thompson, then who? He has a proven track record of building, running and maintaining a successful business. If it is his idea and he has suggested adding a fitness center as a component of the rec center, why is this so offensive to people? When did it become a crime to make money running and profiting in business?

The other comment often stated, “If this is such a great idea, let private business build it,” or, “I don’t want tax dollars spent on this type of recreation,” or, “I wouldn’t use this, why should I pay for it?”

On the surface, I will admit I had similar initial thoughts. It’s easy to let our mind go that direction, especially in a tougher financial climate. But as I thought back on the reasons I selected Peachtree City over Newnan or other outlying areas, I remembered it was the recreation and the lifestyle that Peachtree City offered.

The city/government built and funded ALL of the things that made our decision – the schools, the tennis center, Kedron Rec center, the golf cart paths and the parks. All of these amenities were provided with taxpayer funds. I’m proud to live in a community that dedicates resources to these amenities.

What sparked my interest most in this idea is that Dar was smart enough to find a way to negotiate a project that wouldn’t burden the taxpayers with 100 percent of the costs as these other recreational amenities.

By building the facility with the proposed plan, bringing in outside business and utilizing other resources, we as taxpayers would shoulder only a small portion of the entire cost of the project.

Considering the current political climate, it was great to hear that private business was willing to help contribute to the cost. Instead this story was twisted and presented to the public as the city paying for a private company to “get rich.”

The reality is that with the ice complex the CITY would stand to gain financially as well. Certainly the revenue from hotels, restaurants, retail, would add to the city budget. But residents of the city gain regardless if you ever step foot in the Ice Arena. A premiere center like this would certainly increase home values by adding another amenity and increasing the desire for people to pick Peachtree City over other cities. Residents also gain as they have a wonderful facility to use.

It doesn’t feel like such a stretch or ridiculous to ask the citizens to share some of the risk and cost for a project of this scale. By bringing the outside ice management company on board, Dar has helped structure a deal that lowers the cost of the amenity to the citizens, but still provides the benefits.

Why is this so offensive to us? Why shouldn’t a business profit, if we as citizens profit as well?

I believe this paper has convinced the community that only ONE individual benefits and failed to demonstrate that we all really had something wonderful to gain at a relatively low cost. I hope this issue is not “dead in the water” and I hope residents reconsider and find a new way to go forward with this project.

Will we sit around and watch those around us continue to raise the bar all the while we stand by and do nothing to better our community? I hope that the next big headline isn’t “Coweta County to open premier ice and sports complex.”

Denise Sturman

Peachtree City, Ga.

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Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Mon, 11/24/2008 - 5:57am.

Plan is to pass a bond and have the YMCA manage it. It is only 10 miles away - we'll be able to use it. We just won't get the economic benefit - nor will we have to fund the $2 per month.

It will pass in Coweta because the opponents are not that many and they have no Dar to demonize. How can you criticize the Y? I truly believe that had Dar not been visible that the ice rink would have passed in PTC on its own merits. But that's why we play the games and count the votes - to see who wins and who loses.

Coweta will win next year.

Voice of Fayette Future's picture
Submitted by Voice of Fayett... on Mon, 11/24/2008 - 6:41am.

These are the same arguments that the Development Authority and their hosts of crooks foisted on Peachtree City. "World Class Facility" with a leaky roof and drainage disaster that they didn't make their buddies at Group VI fix. The taxpayers will be burdened for a long time for the millions that were spread out among the Chamber crowd. And Tyrone--- don't expect an investigation there because Peachtree City got a big whitewash on their numerous admitted sins.

Government has a more fundamental role than setting up public works projects that benefit a few local contractors and lawyers.

No, in this case I am happy that Coweta will do it. Anyone in PTC can go use their facility just like everyone in East Coweta does in Fayette County with our facilities.

Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Mon, 11/24/2008 - 7:17am.

I guess I should have said "the opponents are not that many, nor are they as crazy in their opposition which was based largely upon unrelated past issues and a blind hatred for the so-called and imaginary 'power structure' in PTC, etc."

The tennis center should have been built, it has helped PTC, the roof leak should have been fixed without drama and the city under Brown should not have disrupted management over a Democrat-inspired issue like wealth envy.

The ice rink (and most other things like it) could work fine if government would fund and let professionals manage. How simple. But elected officials just can't help themselves. They have to meddle.

And PTC council would have meddled in the ice rink. They certainly would not have relinquished management entirely to the YMCA. Look at how they are trying to manage trash pickup. It is better in Coweta - you are right. We can use and they can fund and manage. If they had any sense they would charge us more to use the facility since we dropped the ball for reasons that were illogical.

Submitted by Bonkers on Mon, 11/24/2008 - 6:28am.

The YMCA operates on donated money---much of it from municipalities and Charities.

These things DON'T make money! Reason? Charges to users too low.

They are OK in conjunction with a multiplex of other recreational and learning operations in the same building--which is run and audited by city or county employees----not private enterprise, where all the money eventually goes!

Don't supply a multi-million dollar boondoggle to a private person or entity---it will fail due to greed.

Don't you think there would be a multiplex everywhere if they were profitable? Too few people use an ice rink alone with coke machines--even with a private gym!

Why do you think Disney is successful? Not to just see Mickey and Donald!

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