Letter: Taxpayers deserve more answers

Published 10:00 pm Monday, August 27, 2018

The article in the Wednesday Albert Lea Tribune on the Blazing Star Landing cannot be taken at face value. First of all, we as taxpayers deserve more respect and credit for being able to understand what is going on in our community. Second, we need more transparency of all the facts about each issue we face, not just bits and pieces that are given out only to try and create the favorable impression the person being interviewed wants.

I have a number of questions and statements about this article and its subject matter. If we were to be awarded bonding money to develop the Blazing Star Landing, the city manager has always stated that the moving of Front Street would be dependent on the involvement of committed and contracted developers. No mention of that in this article. Not long ago, the city manager said he had a “letter of intent” for the development of the entire area of the Blazing Star Landing. What became of that letter, and who else has knowledge of that letter and its content?

The mayor says we need to factor in long-term projections rather than short-term costs.  Explain to us how a $30 million  to $50 million community center verses a $5 million to $7 million fire station as public facilities are different in how they will affect the future development of the Blazing Star Landing? Explain how any possible future expansion of a new fire station can be accomplished on a confined location and not cost us more in the future if we grow as a community?  The mayor also says he doubts placing the fire station on the Blazing Star Landing would stimulate growth. The reality is, this site is still empty after 17 years, eight of which he has been mayor and still no development. 

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This article tells you all the amenities a new community center would offer and gives the impression they would be free. They will not be free.  The article fails to explain the collaborations with the YMCA and other entities in management, and fees that would be charged to use this proposed facility and its amenities.   

There are a number of taxpayers in this community who question the necessity and affordability of some of these facilities.  I believe they have legitimate concerns and deserve better explanations as to how these facilities will benefit our community and spur future economic development. We already pay higher taxes than surrounding communities.  Even though we may receive more services than other communities, we still pay higher taxes. Without substantial economic growth, how much more can we afford?

My detractors will say, “You ask more questions than you offer solutions.” They are right, because the solutions to these issues are very complicated. What I do offer is, if we are asked as taxpayers to fund these issues, we have every right to know how our money will be spent and what the return will be on our investment.   

Gary Hagen

Albert Lea