The multimillion-dollar deal between the city of Colorado Springs and the U.S. Olympic Committee continues to drive a wedge in the community.
Today, it caused a nasty spat between two public officials.
In one corner, county Commissioner Jim Bensberg.
In the other, city Councilman Bernie Herpin.
A column in today’s Gazette led to the dustup.
“Not that anybody really cares anymore, except those of us who have been stuck with the tab, but $42.3 million is not the true cost of the USOC ‘deal,’” Bensberg said in an e-mail to the newspaper.
“The total cost is $64.7 million over the next 30 years,” he said in the e-mail.
“Meanwhile, the downtown police station and fire station #8 have been used as collateral for a building which will not wholly belong to anybody when the mortgage is paid because the first two floors belong to Lionel’s crony, Ray Marshall,” Bensberg said, referring to Mayor Lionel Rivera and the developer in the project.
“What a deal, eh?” Bensberg added. “Oh yeah, anybody seen those Olympic rings lately? There must be a logjam at the city sign shop…”
Herpin came out swinging after reading the e-mail, saying Bensberg should look in the mirror.
“And what is the ‘true’ cost of the county’s decision to pay $25 million for part of the Intel building? Or, the (certificates of participation) they issued to expand the jail – after the voters said no? Or, the (certificates of participation) they issued to expand the district court building or the county parking garage?” Herpin said, also in an e-mail.
“I seem to remember something about rocks and glass houses!!” he concluded.
Bensberg fired back with a stinging response.
Here’s the full text of Bensberg’s e-mail to The Gazette:
I’ll attempt to explain Councilman Herpin’s misreading of county issues with the facts… Unlike the city, the county is required by state law to provide both a jail and a courthouse. Ask Bernie how much the city contributes to these causes. Zero is the correct response. Also, ask him if the state requires the city to provide us with a USOC facility. We both know the answer to that question.
It was, of course, a previous BoCC which voted in 2002 to comply with state mandates for adequate facilities, before I came on board, to upgrade both the jail and courthouse. Nonetheless, it was a necessary move for a number of reasons.
Unlike the Intel building, the city paid far more than what Ray Marshall’s building was worth, or, what a comparable Chase Bank building would have cost for the USOC’s needs. The county got a steal on all of the square footage, furnishings, and parking on Garden of the Gods Road. And, when the final tab comes in, it will cost less than the $25 million up-front cost because we will be able to defray the cost by selling or leasing buildings on Union and Spruce streets. Plus, the Intel building is considered collateral for the lease-purchase arrangement. The county will own the building at the end of the payments period. The city can’t say the same for its “purchase” of the 27 S. Tejon St.
The reason the county parking garage cost us so much is because we had to comply with rigid and unwieldy city bureaucratic rules which dictated a five-story building when the three-story version would have served the public adequately. We also had to redesign the County Courthouse addition to placate certain vocal councilmembers who squealed when Katherine Lee Bates’ view of Pikes Peak was diminished. This resulted in less capacity for future growth since we could not justify an increase in spending.
To compare city spending on the USOC building to the necessary expense the county bore to comply with state statutes shows just how misguided certain folks are. It is a classic ruse to change the subject when one wishes to divert attention away from their own misdeeds and in this case, profligate spending to the tune of $2.15 million per year for the next 30 years.
If you or others doubt the wisdom of the county’s purchase of the Intel facilities, you might consider the recent Gazette editorial on this subject. Most reasonable people agree, the county did the right thing at the right time, something that can’t be said of the city’s deal with Ray Marshall.