Members of the public and the city’s Mello Roos District Board offered ideas such as a synthetic turf soccer or disc golf field, better Wi-Fi coverage in the Antioch Community Center or simply paying off a portion of the Mello Roos bonds, which are special property taxes that help subsidize schools and public services. The current Mello Roos bonds are due to expire in 2016.
However, as consultant and former Prewett Park project manager, Lonnie Karste pointed out at Monday’s Mello Roos District Board meeting, $2 million won’t stretch very far. The money – savings from the construction of the Antioch Community Center – must also account for parking, grading or soil improvements in the hilly area near the water park and new facility. As the area is home to burrowing owls, the city would also need to take into account environmental mitigation.
“All of those things are possible; all of those things would have to be reviewed,” Karste said. “Unfortunately, you have $2 million, so you have sort of a fixed amount of money from the city’s perspective.”
Antioch’s Mello Roos District does not decide how to spend these funds, but offers recommendations to the city. Board members opted not to provide an official opinion to the city on Monday, but rather to pass along their thoughts and public comment.
Though no decision was submitted to the city, board members Terry Ramus, Walter Ruehlig and Wade Harper generally agreed that the $2 million could cover a new turf field. And since traveling sports teams would rent out the field and spend money locally, the project could generate revenue for the city. Board member Thomas McNell, who was away on a business trip, submitted a written statement supporting a turf field.
“I’m looking at the youth, and to refute that statement that there’s nothing to do in the city of Antioch,” Harper said. “But at the same time, if we can’t afford it, if it comes out to be too much, we should have a Plan B in place.”
In contrast, board member Larry Osorio felt that another field would be one too many and siphon off traffic from other fields in the city. He abstained from voting on the matter, citing concern that the city wouldn’t be able to build the field soon enough for it to be cost-efficient.
Ruehlig noted that while he’s not sure how much the environmental mitigation or grading would cost, the synthetic turf field could eat up roughly $1.5 million.
Some residents who spoke at Monday’s meeting felt that instead of trying to force something to happen with the $2 million, the Mello Roos District should recommend that the city use it to help pay off the bonds, easing the strain on taxpayers.
That option also found support in an online poll conducted by former City Councilman Allen Payton. Of the 248 votes in the poll, 90 were in favor of giving it back.
“I talked to a few people in my neighborhood, and they’re all Mello Roos taxpayers, and their first response was, ‘Why not give the money back so that it gets paid down sooner?’” Antioch resident Trisha Meirle told the board. “I really think that people deserve a break after paying all these years and for all that they have paid.”
But Ramus noted that using the $2 million in that fashion really wouldn’t be as effective as it sounds. While it seems like a large sum of cash now, it would equal a savings of only $133 per Mello Roos taxpayer, essentially meaning that the bond would be paid off a scant 32 days earlier. Other board members felt, however, that such a use of the funds is an option the city should take seriously.
Antioch’s City Council will decide how to spend the money at a future meeting.