Today’s post is Sarasota resident Marilynne Martin’s e-mail to the Sarasota County Commission regarding last week’s vote on the SANCA agreement.
It was disappointing to see you rubber stamp the agreement and all vote in favor of this agreement last week.
Usually a contract is written in order to put the obligations and responsibilities of both parties in writing. The contract you approved did not accomplish that for the people of Sarasota. This contract clearly outlines the County’s responsibilities to make payments. This SANCA organization has two important commitments that failed to be reflected in the agreement. They have a commitment to 1) raise $22 million for the construction of the towers, grandstand, and safety improvements and 2) generate economic activity for the county through their events. The agreement fails to include schedules of promised fundraising by year or promised economic activity by year.
The agreement, as approved, puts the county taxpayers at risk for not only the amounts committed to pay but the $5million clawback from the State grant without providing some targets for SANCA to meet yearly which would help the county monitor their progress and provide an out clause if they were not performing. If they are not performing, we have to wait for 5 years to terminate the contract.
SANCA is an inexperienced and untested organization. Your materials clearly state that they were formed for this purpose. Therefore they have no track record and no evidence of success was presented at the BCC meeting. The material provided at the January 28, 2014 meeting show significant losses of the events for the years 2014-2017. The materials also suggest that no alternative was considered to SANCA. Was any work done to see if an experienced private management firm would bid on this agreement and offer the county a better deal? It appears not.
The presentation by your staff last week should have included a baseline cost to the county. That cost is what we would have incurred had we just left it as a normal park – what is our cost of maintenance? The second baseline is what it costs to run the rowing park without events. And the final is the rowing park with the events. The fact that none of the Commissioners nor staff could quote that amount is also telling. To use the words I “think” and “believe” is shameful. You are commissioners approving a project – you should “know” what that cost is.
What good is this agreement if they can come back budget season after budget season and ask for additional funds? Some of you may be termed out, but as taxpayers we don’t term out – we get stuck with these bills.
Ms. Brown stated that SANCA has to generate tourism as part of the agreement – but the amount and by when is not included – so what did they commit to in this agreement? And if tourism is up 15% next year, how many different county projects will claim that same tourism for their project success?
The comparison to Disney and ESPN was another insult to the people. As someone who has worked for large multi-national corporations in finance, I can assure you that Disney never approves projects without an ROI analysis. Where is the ROI analysis that includes all the cash flows – including repaying this debt? Does it exist? Can I receive a copy?
I am sorry I can’t kneel and kiss the Benderson’s feet and be as grateful as you are. I see many benefits that have accrued to the Benderson’s with this project. $40 million construction project which will net a nice profit as just one and a $60 million road project just announced that benefits his development is another. What I don’t see is how this project benefits the Sarasota taxpayer nor the protections built into the contract to make sure we are not stuck holding the bag.
Finally, I checked the website regarding Commissioner Barbetta’s wife business. He clearly filed for the LLC and was listed as “mgr” on each annual report filed, not as “agent”. SANCA should be subject to the procurement rules of Sarasota County and all work should be subject to bid for all county businesses to have an opportunity to bid on.
Articles of organization: