In a Township of 56 Square Miles, many of which are occupied by the youth travel sports industry at Grand Park, tonight’s Westfield City Council Meeting left me as curious as ever as a fiscally conservative taxpayer.
The mostly freshmen City Council has been hard at work for six months now. Alongside two incumbent councilors, they have divided into groups to tackle some pretty big challenges and the finances of the City of Westfield. Councilors Mike Johns and Cindy Spoljaric joined the Advisory Planning Commission (APC). Jake Gilbert and Scott Willis are tackling the Oversight Committee and current Council President, Joe Edwards, is working with Troy Patton and Scott Frei on the Finance Committee. Patton, a CPA, is the Chairman.
While Coronavirus brought public meetings to a standstill, they HAVE been occurring; just in a different format than to which we had grown accustomed. The Finance Committee, specifically, has been digging deep into Grand Park and Grand Junction Plaza. Of their last two meetings, each one detailed specific information about the projects, respectively. I’m certain everyone appreciates the transparency these committees are offering the taxpayers. The Westfield City Council took a big swing at managing lost revenues and the control of Grand Park tonight, by way of constructing an resolution. They definitely got some wood on the ball with this one, folks! Together, as the Council convened yet again via YouTube and Skype for its meeting tonight, they introduced two ordinances and one resolution; the last of which was deemed imperative; the “Resolution for Operation of Grand Park Contracts/Agreements," Resolution Number 20-128.
Heads were spinning as listeners were trying to get a handle on the Council's concerns. In the meantime the city administration, including Mayor Cook, seemed rattled as the meeting pressed on. This Council should be applauded for their persistence. Things you might consider regarding the history of agreements on Grand Park:
A February 2014 “Management Agreement” between the City of Westfield and the Indiana Bulls under Section IV. Revenue states, “The Bulls and the City shall share the first four hundred thousand dollars ($400,000) of admission revenues related to all games, tournaments, competitions, practice sessions, and other events and activities at the Diamond Sports Facilities… For all Admission Net Revenues received in excess of four hundred thousand dollars ($400,000) in any year, the Bulls shall receive seventy percent (70%) and the City shall receive thirty percent (30%) of such revenues.” Perhaps the Council would have argued for a more equitable split and apparently, this is an ongoing concern. Perhaps the contract is now a month-to-month, but it seems that this is a question that will remain unanswered until an audit is performed.
The same agreement stipulates 10 (ten) annual escrow payments (Section V.) beginning in 2015, of which only four could be located going back through the BullPen funds report since 2014 according to the Clerk Treasurer’s office.
The “Assignments and Assumptions Agreement,” signed solely by Mayor Cook in October 2014, gave management of the park from Indiana Bulls Baseball to Bullpen Tournaments.
In the “Lease Agreement” dated June 2017 between the City (signed by William Knox, Director of Grand Park) and Bullpen Tournaments, (signed by Ken Kocher, Owner of Bullpen Tournaments) promises $3,201 in monthly rent plus its “pro rata” share of the utilities for rental of an office building located in Grand Park. Technically, the Landlord is the Westfield Redevelopment Commission, yet according to the funds report, those payment amounts stopped in April 2018. If there’s another agreement that exists which lowered the rent, the Westfield City Council remains unaware despite requests for transparency regarding the park.
While some might argue that not everything should be available in the public purview, certainly our City Council should be kept abreast of its financial endeavors. Is Grand Park and are we, the taxpayers, missing revenue because no one knows what to look for? Is Bullpen double-dipping Westfield taxpayers by collecting “gate fees” and by charging local teams more than the out-of-towners for the very fields we helped finance as Councilor Patton suggested? Does the signing authority fall to just one person or should it be preformed by the financial arm of our local government? How did we get this far down the road while taxpayers have remained on the hook and come out the losers on the fields, both literally and figuratively? Is this how government should operate?
Years after its opening, with enough money to finally cover employee overhead (for the first time in 2020); evidently the City has not collected nearly what it should have. The Council seems sure that an independent audit is the right thing to do and they should be congratulated on bringing the City's business into the daylight. Having passed Resolution 20-128 with 6-yeses and 1-abstention, our local city government is doing their best even when an online meeting goes a little sideways.
Ordinance Number 20-26 titled, "Transparency Related to Campaign Contributions" is simply written to clear up rules and requests regarding recusals. The other ordinance introduced tonight detailed plans to institute what some commonly refer to as “sunset clauses” though Ordinance Number 20-27 is technically called, "Ordinance to Amend Planed Unit Development Ordinance" pertaining to ongoing and/or never-constructed PUD's.
Transparency is finally the winner for taxpayers! This Council hit a home run by conducting the public's business in public! Hooray! In case you missed it, it's available here.
The Fiscal Conservatives of Hamilton County is an multi-partisan organization of Hamilton County, Indiana residents who are volunteers focused on fiscal policy and fiscal issues. It is free of outside control by any individual, organization or group. It exists to distribute opinions on issues affecting Hamilton County residents. Opinions expressed in signed articles do not necessarily represent the views of all members of the FCoHC or its board members.