METRA’s Mission Statement, Budget & Questions
By John Ostlund
METRAPARK, a multi-use complex, shall serve the entertainment, trade, athletic, educational and agriculture needs of the Region by providing quality facilities, programs, and events with complete and efficient services to the economic benefit of the Region.
METRA’s budget consists of $2,115,000 of tax revenue and the balance of the $8,000,000 budget is mostly fees for services, rent and, user services like Star-Plex and the Stage-Hands union.
METRA generates 150 million dollars of economic activity into our community annually. With that 2.1 million dollar injection of tax monies, the Taxpayers investment is returned over 70 times to our economy. This includes our hotels, taverns, retailers, restaurants, gas stations, etc. That two million dollars in tax revenue keeps our users rent down, supports community events like our 4-H program, the Nile Fourth Grade Education Program, the Marines Toys for Tots Christmas program, Flakes-giving, the Spay and Neuter Clinics, Law Enforcement Training, Community Shelter in place and helps many more great non-profits who add value to our community. Monies very well spent. Here are some of the questions I believe we need answers to before a change can be considered. These questions should have been answered at the start of the discussion about privatization.
What problems in METRA management specifically led the Commissioners to look for a private firm to manage METRA?
What are the Commissioners goals and objectives for a private management company?
Do the commissioners want to remove all taxpayer subsidies from METRA’s Budget?
Do the Commissioners then want to rebate those Taxes to our residents?
Is the Mission Statement still valid?
How do we handle non-profit businesses and what will a private operator charge them?
If nonprofits are to still get a reduced rental rate will the County Taxpayers still provide the subsidy?
Will 4H now have to pay fees appropriate to sustain their operation?
How will Toys for Tots, Flakes Giving, Spay and Neuter Clinics, Festival of Trees, Nile, Riverstone Health, High School Association, etc., rentals be funded?
Will community shelter remain available when a crisis calls for it?
Will private management charge all renters and promoters actual costs for setup, tear down, dirt in and out of the buildings, clean up, user services, standard move in and load out days for the set up of shows and tear down of their event? Most events require 2-4 days for setup and tear down. Our METRA staff is complimented daily on their excellent performance.
The big equipment is owned by the County. Will the private management company rent the equipment at a standard rate and provide maintenance for said equipment and a capitol fund to replace that equipment at appropriate cycles?
Will the taxpayers be responsible for the capitol costs and upkeep on the facility and grounds? The buildings and grounds are County owned. What kind of a bond will be required to insure the public that if this experiment fails the Taxpayers will not be left holding the bag?
Will bonding be in place to ensure the Taxpayer is protected?
What assurances do our food and beverage vendors have that their contracts and percentages will be honored?
The booking contract already signed with Oak View Group has no appropriate escape clause, only a material breach can cancel it. If things do not go as planned with the next contract, will the Commissioners require a 30-day notification of cancelation from either party in the contract?
My fellow Commissioners have said this will still provide local control. That statement can only be accurate if the local control is prepared to provide funding for each request for reduced costs.
The Chamber supports privatization without a complete analysis of both public and private options. Will the Chamber with Bed Tax Monies backfill the tax dollars now used to subsidize METRA and reduce costs for all of our users, 4H, State High School Association, Nile, Chase Hawks, Wrangler Team Roping and many other users that drive economic growth in our community?
This is a small start to the many questions I have about this process that I believe should have been researched and answered prior to issuing a Request for Qualification & Information for private management. This board has the cart before the horse continually as we ram forward with no goal-oriented direction. I continue to express my concern about the lack of groundwork done to make a wholesale change this big in the way we do business. I fail to understand the fear my colleagues have with commissioning a third party consultant to complete a thorough review of both options to insure the path we are headed down is indeed the correct one.
Our Taxpayers deserve to know the answers before any decision can be made on any management change or privatization effort.