March 5, 2015

By Contributor

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Building purchase shouldn’t be an issue

The Newcastle City Council recently voted to purchase a maintenance and storage building from the Coal Creek Utility District. In exchange for receiving a discounted price, the city agreed to a 10-year moratorium on the potential assumption of direct responsibility for water and sewer services.

Several current and former members of the City Council have registered vocal objections. They argue that the agreement is (a) illegal because it encumbers future councils, (b) unwise because it takes a reasonable option off the table and (c) it’s an unnecessary expense.

Limitations on future council action are neither illegal nor unusual. The city occupies office space under a long-term lease. Commitments to purchase and maintain our parks and to upgrade Coal Creek Parkway affected budgets over several years. Any issuance of municipal bonds requires repayment over an extended period. And the city attorney (an actual lawyer) approved the purchase.

It is true that the agreement delays a potential city takeover of the utilities. But as I understand, this possibility has been discussed and debated since incorporation, with no resolution in sight. The moratorium will provide more time to consider what is truly best for the city.

Finally, while the purchase of the building involves a cash outlay, it is not an expense. It is simply a conversion of assets from cash to real estate. If and when the city found itself short of funds, the building could be sold and our coffers restored. And since the negotiated purchase price for the property is well below what the parties believe to be its market value, the city could pocket the difference as a windfall.

I understand that this is an election year, and that potential candidates are in search of controversial issues on which to base their campaigns. This should not be one.

John Gordon


Editor’s Note: John Gordon is the husband of Newcastle City Councilwoman Carol Simpson.

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