First, it was disappointing that the construction started with no renderings in the media (until now), no public outreach, and little opportunity for public engagement and involvement over the 3+ years the project was being considered (see Aud Authority Minutes). The Aud is, after all, (1) a building paid for by the Utica taxpayers, (2) an engineering landmark with its cable-suspended roof, and (3) involuntarily subsidized by the customers of the Mohawk Valley Water Authority (MVWA) to the tune of $732,000 annually as a matter of state law with mandated increases into the 2030s. Reports by Aud Authority accountants make clear that the Aud cannot survive without this subsidy.
Second, luxury suites may be a staple of the AHL, but they seem out of touch for an area that has been in decline, bears some of the highest levels of taxation in the country, and where water-users have no choice but to pay for this. Like the County's luxurious terminal at Griffiss for the owners of private planes that taxpayers are paying for, it seems that average Joes and Janes are expected to pay for the accouterments of our local elite.
The county executive explained it is cheaper for the county to borrow the money than if the Aud obtains the funding on its own. Payments to the county by the Aud will cover the debt service, he said.We are left with the impression that the County got involved to save the Aud money. We are not told that the Aud Authority has a limitation on bonded indebtedness of no more than $2,000,000 which this project will easily exceed. So the County is assisting the Aud in exceeding its debt limit! To make matters worse, official documents on the subject seem to be written to conceal this fact.
Read the Board of Legislators' resolution authorizing the bond and County Executive's cover letter (at left). The letter makes one believe that the project is needed to meet building codes and that the suites, etc. are just thrown in as extras. The debt limitation isn't mentioned. The resolution does not mention payments from the Aud Authority at all, but instead speaks of an annual assessment on "lots and parcels of land within said District" without ever identifying the lots, parcels or "District." Is this just poor draftsmanship, or concealment?
Fourth, the Aud Authority's contracting day-to-day management functions to people who also USE the facility may have allowed a conflict-of-interest.
It seems that we have created a local government structure which responds more to special interests than to the average person.