Monday, May 28, 2007

Bird Center Disinformation Campaign

There has been a flurry of email flying around the island about a supposed attempt by three aldermen to “kill” the new Birding Center. I was aware that there was some consternation expressed - and not just among alderpeople - regarding the 6.5 million dollar price tag to build what some might consider to be an overly-grandiose structure -- but I had not heard of anyone wanting to kill the project altogether. So I went directly to one of the alleged birdhouse murderers - alderman Kirk Mills - and asked him pointblank if he intended to throttle the birding center and why would he want to do such a thing...

This was his response:

Everyone wants a birding center including me - I maybe more than most as I have a bird book and mark it regularly with sightings of birds. I am interested in seeing something along the lines of the Port Aransas project - ie. not an enormous building and parking lot but rather a modest building with lots of habitat mixed with boardwalks and bird blinds. Something that would promote wildlife, visitors, and not cost in excess of 6.5 million dollars. Why do I object to the 6.5 plus million dollars? Because - the EDC was set up as an agency to promote toruism including to protect our number one attraction/asset: the beach. The current scheme would obligate the income from the edc sales tax through the year 2031 - allocating about $500,000 plus to the bird house and approximately $100,000 per year to the beach. This doesn't make sense to me. It should be the other way around - concentrate on the beach and then the bird center. Additionally I have concerns at the amount of money the EDC spends on it's 50% share of the lobbiest costs (approximately $100,000) and who might be benefitting from it....

It seems to me that these are fair questions for our city officials to be asking and they do not sound like the words of someone who is bound and determined to throw the baby out with the bath-water. Rather, this appears to be an honest attempt to define the priorities of this town and open up discussion as to how to best use our limited resources -- and I think it extremely disingenuous of certain parties to claim the three alderpersons want to kill the project completely.

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Blogger Sam said...

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9:44 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

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10:08 PM  
Blogger just wandering said...

Once upon a time, residents decided that a problem with the BOA was that new boards tended to throw out expensive studies and plans because they didn't like them. Then a new study, still expensive, would be commissioned and ... maybe it would be used and maybe not! This plan is for a nature center with the emphasis on birding but including lots of good stuff for general information about the Island and the Valley and should be a great draw for tourists since there is a lot planned to do and see and great opportunities for them to spend money! I think everyone should read all the information about what is planned, not just object to the building size! Then we can decide if a world class nature center is good for the Island or not. But let's not just try to look like Port Aransas!

8:57 AM  
Blogger MLeahy said...

I agree that the BOA tend to flip flop on plans/studies far too often. Maybe extending their terms by one year might bring more stability as new aldermen/alderwomen come in with their own ideas of how things should be done before earlier plans have been implemented.

Ask ten different people how things should be done and you will get ten different answers. This is the problem with comissioning new studies and plans, there is always a new consulting firm or architectual firm whom is aware of what was done previously and will do their best to give new ideas. I looked at the plan for Port Aransas and think it looks fine, though I prefer the one planned for the island.

Just curious, how much private funding has been secured to date? I know the info has been out there for nearly two years with named plaques and benches for large contributors, but how many have actually donated to the cause? With this center also bringing attention to needed beach and dune preservation, how will it bring in adequate funding for said projects?

Just playing Devil's Advocate...I hope it gets resolved...SOON.

Thanks, MLeahy

10:42 AM  
Blogger Lucinda said...

Of course we we all want a quality attraction. I think the wooly mammoth exhibit is a bit over the top, though. I think the building should be by the road and not encroaching on the wetlands that most of us want to protect and preserve. I think earmarking the next 21 years worth of EDC funds for this building is... folly. Does the public know that a large chunk of this nature center is also going to function as a (very posh) office for the EDC? And that by the time it is finished it could quite possibly cost even more than our new municipal building? I understand the exhibits will be static, which means that once people have seen them, there will be no reason to revisit. How much return can we really expect to see on our investment?

Just last year this was a 3 million dollar project. How did costs rise so much so fast?

11:29 AM  
Blogger MLeahy said...

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12:19 PM  

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