Skating on thin ice?

st-hockey-bkydAt 6pm on Wednesday, October 1, the Town Council will be holding a “workshop” to discuss the $5.5 million hockey arena being proposed by a private group known as the Friends of Scarborough Hockey, or FOSH.  The current plan is for the rink to be built on Town-owned property between the gas station and the High School. The workshop is open to the public (and may be televised on the local cable channel).  If the workshop follows the usual format, members of the public will not be allowed to interact with the Council members or FOSH presenters.   So the “public discussion” aspect of the workshop is limited by what the participants choose to discuss.

In our attempt to encourage real public discussion on the hockey arena, we submitted a list of questions we would like to have asked at the workshop.  That list follows.  In addition, we prepared a detailed position paper on the hockey arena that gets into the real nitty-gritty of the arena proposal.  Here’s a link to the position paper:  ST-Hockey Position Paper

Here’s the list of questions we submitted to the Town Council for the October 1 workshop:

Questions for the Town Council:

1. What amount does the Town propose as the “long term low cost” lease rate for the Town property on which the hockey arena would be built? How was that amount determined?

  • We believe an estimated market-rate lease rate for the property would be around $15,000 per year and do not understand the rationale for the Town accepting less. (We do not believe there are any circumstances under which the Town should sell the property to FOSH, even at a market price; the Town should always retain ownership of all property on the Town campus.)

2. The MOU envisions the Town waiving various approval and traffic impact fees. What is the total amount of fees that would be waived and what is the basis for waiving them?

  • Again, we do not understand the rationale for the Town waiving the fees.

3. What specific provisions will the Town include in the MOU and lease to ensure that the Town does not eventually become the rink’s owner and/or operator?

  • We do not believe the Town should be in the hockey rink business.

4. Will the Town require FOSH to raise the entire $5.5 million cost of constructing the rink before entering into a lease?

  • To minimize the risk of a partially completed project, we believe the Town should.

5. The Town’s school hockey teams will be the primary beneficiary of the proposed rink. Why hasn’t the Board of Education endorsed the project?

  • This is just puzzling.

st-hockey-zamboni

Questions for FOSH:

6. Does FOSH intend to apply for a real estate tax exemption for the proposed hockey rink?

  • The real estate taxes on a taxable property assessed at $5 million would be about $75,000.

7. Will FOSH enter into long-term ice time contracts (10 years or more) with the Cape Elizabeth and South Portland school systems for 30% or more of its budgeted annual revenue?

  • Long-term participation of Cape Elizabeth and South Portland school systems is crucial to the financial viability of the proposed hockey rink.

8. Can the proposed hockey arena be located elsewhere in Scarborough without significantly reducing its value to the various School teams?

  • Since the teams are now practicing and playing in various out-of-town ice facilities, it would appear that the availability of ice time at reasonable hours at any location in Scarborough would be a major improvement.

st-hockey-face offFrom the beginning, SMARTaxes has supported the concept of a privately-funded and operated ice arena in Scarborough.  Our concerns have been that any dealings between the Town and FOSH be conducted on an arm’s length basis and that all transactions reflect fair market value for the Town’s property.  We also would like assurance that the Town will not somehow become the owner and/or operator of the ice rink if FOSH’s plans do not fully succeed.

If you share these concerns, please contact Town Council members by phone or email.  Click here for contact info.

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4 responses to “Skating on thin ice?

  1. A professional appraisal should be completed on the property to determine current market value and economic rent (paid for by FOSH) . Rent increases should be yearly tied to the amount of tax increase.
    This meeting should be both televised and on the internet, to avoid the appearance of any improprieties.

  2. Thank you for all the work you have done on this issue. I have a slightly different position:

    I would rather the ice arena be built on private property. If it is a sound business proposal then it should be no problem finding a suitable location and proceeding. And as a private entity they will pay taxes.

    I am very concerned that if it is built on town owned land, at some point the town will be operating it, at a loss. If FOSH goes broke the town will not let the arena sit there unused. If, on the other hand, the arena is on private land, it’s fate is of no concern to the town.

    Ice arenas are very, very expensive to operate. You have a lot of machinery to make and maintain the ice and all of it needs to be replaced periodically. That is a major reason why a lot of ice arenas are publically owned. They rarely pay for themselves.

    I also think it important that the town owned land be kept and used only for our schools. In that area we have a limited amount of land and an ice arena is certainly not the best and highest use of it.

    Cordially,

    Harry White

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