Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Citizen Bonacio

When Sonny Bonacio’s first-grade art teacher gave him finger paints and told him to make a picture of his house, imagine, the future developer probably came back with a detailed engineering schematic of his entire neighborhood. Good work, but not quite the work that was asked to be done.

Such is the case today, when Bonacio pitched plans for a 500-unit lot and a public safety facility instead of just a plan to add a parking structure to the municipal lot on Woodlawn Avenue. True, the city cops have been pining for a new building. But the disparity between the plan Bonacio and his cabal of developers pitched and what the city council asked for is so vast that it’s curious that the even looked at the initial request for proposal.

Basically, Bonacio wants to develop a multi-story parking and public safety facility on the 1.6 acre parcel. Bonacio would “give” the city a one-time contribution of $200,000 to establish a parking authority to maintain the lot. Here’s the kicker: he’d also “lease” the public safety complex back to the city to the tune of $1.5 million per year.

Succinctly put, this is not only thinking outside the box; it’s thinking completely off the grid and in another dimension not deeply rooted in reality. Under Bonacio’s proposal, the city would pay more than $45 million just to inhabit the facility. Meanwhile, the city would also need to maintain the parking facility, which according to The Saratogian, would become municipal property once it is completed.

So the towering garage structure –and the one most prone to malfunction as demonstrated by the Phila Street garage –would be city property to maintain with a slush-fund that barely covers façade work these days. Meanwhile, the new public safety facility –the same one that’s been estimated to cost roughly $22 million if built by the city –would cost twice as much and be owned by a private developer who would make bank on the taxpayers. What a bargain.

On a side note: neither The Saratogian nor The Daily Gazette reporters bothered to ask what it costs the city to maintain the present public safety building, which would have helped readers flesh out Bonacio’s seemingly ridiculous rent-rate. Then again, both papers lead with the fact that there will be fireworks on the Fourth of July that don’t involve a spitting match between Mayor Valerie Keehn and Public Works Commissioner Tom McTygue.

The Saratogian reporter even mentioned Bonacio’s proposal was “the most intriguing topic of the night,” only to bury it seven graphs down in the story. Good work, guys. Way to single out the important news of the day. Of course, The Post Star apparently didn’t even bother with a story and appears to have given up on reporting hard news in Saratoga altogether.

But back to the issue at hand, which is Bonacio’s plan. It would put the property back on the tax rolls and absolve the city from having to bond the cost of a new station. However, these taxes would undoubtedly be a fraction of what the developer is proposing for the annual lease.

This would also put the city in the precarious legal situation of assessing the value a building in which they are the only lease holder. And does anyone honestly believe the new public safety building will be honestly assessed each year? Let’s also not ignore the fact that Bonacio would also become the city police and justice system’s landlord.

Finance Commissioner Matt McCabe rightfully spoke with trepidation Tuesday over Bonacio’s plan, which was more than rest of the city’s suck-hole politicians could do in response to this ludicrous plan. Keehn suggested “broadening” the discussion to include all parking, while Commissioners John Franck and Ron Kim urged action on the proposal because the parking and public safety building “issues” are not going away. In the end, they decided to schedule a meeting with the developer to further discuss this absolutely ludicrous plan.

In truth, there should be only one action taken with Bonacio’s plan, and that is to hand-deliver it to him with a big red “F” written at the top of it along with instructions to reread the city’s original RFP. If the city asks for 300 new parking spaces, come back with a plan that brings 300 new parking spaces, not a tax boondoggle that raises more questions than it answers.

7 Comments:

Blogger Scoop said...

I read the Post Star everyday and I have seen the changes in the Saratoga coverage, mostly it is crime stories from police blotters, which doesn't take any investigation to report.

4:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting as usual, but cut the Post-Star some slack for a few weeks...looks like there's a new reporter on the Saratoga beat.

p.s. Try spellcheck, Citizen Alger.

6:55 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

Bah...spellchek. Who nedes it.

I won’t disparage the Post Star with the same vigor that I do The Saratogian. However, their coverage of Saratoga has precipitously slipped in the past year or so. It also appears as though they’ve cut the bureau positions downtown and across the paper. If this is true, this must be one of the worst circulation decisions I can recall. There was a time when their coverage of the city was on par with The Daily Gazette and besting The Saratogian. My criticism is rooted in my memories of this time.

7:20 AM  
Blogger Ben Arnold said...

Get used to it. Sonny and a small handful of other local developers are the only ones likely to spend a dime pursuing the City's ill-planned RFP's. These requests are losers to begin with and noone is going to stick to the scope when the scope is unrealistic. You know the last thing the Mayor wants is another project sponsored by McTygue's buddy Bonacio....she wants broader participation from the "private sector" (i.e., anyone but Bonacio). But the wider private sector is generally unwilling to get involved in the unparalleled idiocy of the City's political environment. The Mayor et al should get their heads out of their asses, realize they're not going to get a free lunch for the people and simply spend the money to bond the project themselves....if the need warrants the cost.

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great piece and you're so right. This proposal screws the city and McCabe was the only smart guy at the table to recognize it right away.

If this were a State RFP Bonacio's proposal would have discarded for non-compliance.

6:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ben Arnold
I think you are right on the money. Lets keep it simple and bond a parking structure that will take care of the city for along to come. Can't we spend some money on City Hall to modernize it and not build a new public safety and court facility for many millions.

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why does every project have to include condos.( Not yet included) Be bold...lets build a parking structure and call it a day. Do the math, and realize that a city owned structure is the best plan. Everyone fails to mention land costs. FREE! Bonding 10 Million at 4% could be recovered annually by some lease and pay options with local hotels,resturants, or valet services. While still providing free spots to. Matt McCabe has it right, Listen to the logic. MORE for less!!

5:05 AM  

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