Mission Viejo Guest Column

                            $7.7 million Cost Takes Big Bite Out of Budget

                                                                             by Cathy Schlicht, Mayor, Mission Viejo

Mission Viejo Mayor Cathy Schlicht
In September 2011, the prior council approved a $3.7 million budget that grew to $5.6 million to complete the Marguerite Tennis Pavilion in the Marguerite Recreation Center, which includes the Marguerite Aquatics Complex and the YMCA.

The question before the city council is whether the city should now spend another $7.7 million on the Marguerite Aquatics Complex to create a world-class facility so the private, nonprofit Nadadores Swim Club can host National and International events. The answer isn’t as easy as one might think when you considering the following facts.

The Nadadores have an exclusive 20-year, rent-free Facility Use Agreement. The Nadadores are one of the largest swim and dive clubs in the United States. It is a business with more than $1 million paid in salaries and benefits, and it raises revenue.

 Not only do the Nadadores have free use of the Marguerite Swim Complex, the taxpayers are paying 55% of its utility bills.

Am I committed to repairing the Nadadores' swim center? Absolutely I am. On June 6, 2011, I placed on the agenda an item for a vote to start the necessary renovations after the 2012 Summer Olympics. My motion received unanimous support from the council, Coach Rose and Mission Viejo Olympian swimmer Chloe Sutton. However, the purpose of this badly needed expenditure changed from creating a safe and inviting environment to building a world-class facility.

Exchanging ideas has always been the bedrock of our democracy and yet, there was no debate or discussion about the concerns I raised when the council's motion was to vote for the most
expensive option on the table. The response was spin, condescending comments, falsifications and distortion.

To control the message, on a 4-1 vote, the council ended discussion and then proceeded to vote for "the whole ball of wax." The public will now be bombarded with a city hall PR campaign to justify its expenditures to support a nonprofit private club that has admitted that it cannot afford to pay its utility bills but has committed to repay a $1.336 million taxpayer-funded loan over a 20-year period.

I predict that the spin will be that construction costs will not use taxpayer dollars, as developer park fees will pay for the rehabilitation. Since all of the remaining park fees are designated for this project however, the reality is that general fund (taxpayer) dollars will now be needed to fund playground renovations and restroom construction that developer park fees would have otherwise funded.

Consequently, no funds are currently available for slope rehabilitation.

Mission Viejo's legacy is sports. We are proud of our Nadadores, who are Olympic and National Champs; we just recognized the Mission Viejo Diablos Varsity Baseball Team as 2015 CIF champs and last fall, two of our high school football teams were also CIF champs.

Our little leaguers and pony teams have come home with trophies and AYSO is huge in our city; they are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the AYSO Region 84 Mission Viejo Classic Soccer Tournament. We played host to the 1994 US Men's World Cup Soccer Team as well as the Jennie Finch Girls Softball Camp. We were part of the 1984 Olympics. Wounded Warriors Baseball, Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team Kids Camp, and the Special Olympic events are strongly supported by our citizens.

We are not a selfish community.

Mission Viejo has produced professional athletes in both baseball and football, all evidence showing that sports are an important part of our heritage.

All sports build character, instill teamwork, teach discipline and respect for others. Sports develop values, build self-esteem and make us better citizens. Sports, good schools and a vibrant community keeps Mission Viejo safe and secure for our families. I support our sports programs and the facilities that accommodate them. I just ask that we do so in a reasonable and financially responsible manner.

Our role as council members is to ask questions and to serve as guardians for what is best for all, which includes establishing reasonable limits on expenditures.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I suspect that the "new and really really fiscally conservative" city council will shell out the $7.5 million for the completely private facility to be renovated, and a new diving platform built.

One of them who penned the article has already skimmed over the "Marguerite Tennis Center" improvements.

But don't take my word for it. But don't take her word for it either. Ask the city clerk for a breakdown of the costs, and see how much went to the tennis center, how much for the Nadadores entry way, and the expanded parking lot which serves, tada, Nadadores a lot more than the tennis center.

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