City had a $2 million offer for Mundy Park. . . and turned it down

story on the Mt. Juliet News website:

Dec. 16, 2009 – Though one  commissioner said he was “intrigued” with the idea and called for discussion, Mt. Juliet City Commissions turned down a church’s offer of $2 million to purchase Mundy Park in a 4-1 vote Monday night.

On Dec. 7, Hermitage Hills Baptist Church sent commissioners a non-binding letter of intent to purchase Mundy Park off Belinda Parkway for $2 million with “intentions to include structures, fixtures or other permanent installations.”

On Dec. 8, Mt. Juliet Mayor Linda Elam sent a letter to HHBC trustee Donald Kohanski stating while “we appreciate the interest … the commission … respectfully declined the offer.”

Something in the dates is not quite right. The MJ News article says the Mayor received the letter on December 7th and sent a reply on the 8th, declining the offer in the name of the City Commission. But the Commission didn’t have it on their agenda until the 14th.

Anybody know if the Commission actually discussed it at their meeting on the 7th? Or was the Mayor freelancing (again)? Or did they (say it ain’t so) violate the open meetings law by discussing this outside of a meeting?

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6 Comments

Filed under Mt. Juliet City Commission, Open Meetings Law

6 responses to “City had a $2 million offer for Mundy Park. . . and turned it down

  1. Butch Huber

    This was a $3.9 million dollar deal if it was a dime. The city would have received $2,000,000 for the property, plus it wouldn’t have had to have paid for the maintenance of the property to the tune of $250,000 per year. The city gets about $60K per year from fees for use, which reduces the $250K expense down to $190,000 per year. The church was going to run it as an open park for at least 10 years. $190,000 times 10 = $1.9 million. Add that $1.9 million in savings to the $2.0 million in cash, and you have a minimum $3.9 benefit in this deal.

    This from a city that is so hard up it cancels Christmas for its employees? They can’t afford $75 per person in a year end bonus, which was already appropriated in the budget, but they can afford to turn down this deal? Really? Hmmmm.

    Not only that, the church was going to invest in upgrades to make the park even more user friendly. Let me see. A better park, $3.9 million in benefit, and the employees get Christmas back. Hard to pass up, isn’t it? Fact is, that park is in a horrible location anyway. I think they may have made a boo-boo here.

    How about a counter offer? I think they probably could have gotten the church to extend the guarantee of openness of the park to the public for 15 years, maybe even 20 years, if they tried.

    How insane is this commission? A little while back I had to fight tooth and nail to stop them from buying the Old MJES site (which under that deal would have been the commission of bond fraud because the only money they could have used to pay for the land was bond money and that isn’t allowed under the bond offering) and giving it to the YMCA. They were going to spend $2 Million to buy that land and give it to a non-profit and the city was getting essentially nothing from the deal at all (Hardly anything anyway). They were working really, really hard to make that happen. Now, another non-profit is offering THEM $2 million dollar for a piece of drastically under-utilized property, promising to fix it up, and allow the city to use the property for 10 years (Minimum) for free or according to the same rate that the city now charges citizens for use, and they are turning their noses up.

    As far as the letter, it doesn’t surprise me. If in fact this letter did go out before the official discussion on the matter, it would amount to malfeasance or misfeasance on the part of any member of the board that signed it. Remember, Commissioner Hagerty was censured for signing a letter he had no authority to sign. Ed, here ya go, if you want a little payback this may be your ticket.
    That is what the ethics commission is for!

    We can’t get this commission to do what it should do, and have a hell of a time keeping them from doing what they shouldn’t. We need to start electing people who know a good deal when they see it.

    The city is going to the county begging them to pay up on their part of the Reverse L portion of the connector road saying “we need the money”, and yet they turn this deal down. I wouldn’t hold my breath on the reverse L money, Linda. Those good ol’ boys and girls on that commission are going to have fun with this one.

  2. Westsider

    Mundy Park is really not a park anyway. It should be renamed Mundy Adult Softball Fields.

    Most of the people using those fields don’t even live in Mt. Juliet. That is probably why a Hermitage Church is interested in buying it. All their members may play softball there anyway.

    Elam is an attorney and should understand the city charter. If she continues to exceed her authority the city commission has an obligation to stop her.

    They all took oaths of office.

  3. Paul Deyo

    Mundy Park was ill conceived from the outset and dates back to the initial approvals of Providence. The land donation for Mundy was essentially designed to make the Providence developer look good while presenting a project that was frightening in scope in 1997.

    When I was on the Parks Board Mundy lost about a quarter mil a year, roughly the figures Butch has but with less income. The opening of a new disc golf course has been a welcome plus for me but in three trips out there on nice weekend days (the only three since the opening) I saw non-residents on the soccer field once, one walker, and three disc golfers (not counting me). That’s not what I call ‘heavily utilized’. I see more people in Springdale Park, which was initiated during my tenure on the Parks Board and doesn’t have a high-dollar ballfield to maintain and protect.

    I have it on very good authority that madam mayor was trying to sell Mundy Park to an international business concern that recently chose a location on 109 instead. The sale figure was quite a bit higher but below Butch’s extended figure with maintenance savings. I wonder if the city commission was in on that one and wonder why she pursued that project while spurning this one. The total lack of consistency in the actions from the middle chair indicates an inability to govern properly at best and decisions based on outside interests ‘working on’ her at worst.

    For the church it would be a win too. They are probably looking at population trends, and for an entity that thrives on outreach the non-bucolic Interstate view is ideal for giving THEM visibility. They could build on the softball field area and still keep the walking trail and disc golf course (just a suggestion lol).

    Merry Christmas to all. And to all a good afternoon.

  4. Butch Huber

    I was not aware that the land at Mundy Park was “DONATED” to the city. If the land was “donated” to the city, even if the city had spend $1,000,000 upgrading it, this would be a tremendous return on investment. Now, if there are other bidders out there that will pay more, and it makes sense, then by all means, let’s let them have a crack at it.

    This is going to sound like a conflicting position for someone like myself who doesn’t believe that the government should be in the parks business at all, but I am going to say it anyway. The city has to consider the long-term benefit to citizens of a park that is going to be enhanced and kept open to the citizenry for 10 years when it is making decisions. From my personal perspective, they could shut down Mundy Park today and it would not change my life in any way that I would notice. But on a political level, when you have elected to provide an amenity, and you have accepted the donation of land, and have invested funds, on the basis of providing that amenity, there are members of the public that begin to feel they have a “RIGHT” the the continuation of that amenity. That has to be considered when making decisions.
    Personally, I think they could negotiate 15 years of use in the deal, which would probably appease just about anyone who is concerned. It also gives the city 15 years to decide whether they are going to provide similar amenities at a more appropriate area or get out of the business of providing parks altogether (Which would receive my vote).

    If they were to get 15 years of use, the deal would be worth $4,850,000 realized benefit and capital. I don’t know, but I am going to go out on a limb and suggest, that a portion, probably a large portion, of the $1,000,000 in upgrades was actually pay for those who work for the parks department, but I could be wrong. Either way, this would be a big boon for the city. Folks, this benefit is nearly half of one year’s total income to the city! Yeah, it takes 15 years to realize the gain, but my word, who wouldn’t like to have a gain of half of a years pay, even if it takes 15 years to take it all in?

    What do we give up? 15 years from now, we would no longer have a “RIGHT” to use the park. What would reality be? Reality would probably be that they would continue to keep the park open to the general public as a ministry. Isn’t that worth taking a shot at? They are doing “Parks” the way that “Parks” should be done….”Privately”.

    While we are on the subject of “Parks”, I want to use this opportunity to point out “why” the government shouldn’t be in the parks business. To say it bluntly, “Because it is a socialist concept inside of a capitalist country”.

    The Federal Government has to operate according to the Constitution, States kinda have to follow the United States Constitution as well, although the states, according to our Federal Constitution, have broader powers regarding such things. I believe you can either have a capitalist state, or you can have a communist state, or a monarchy or some other form of government, but you ultimately cannot have two of the same forms of government in operation at once. In other words, your country will eventually become one or the other. Socialism is alluring. It speaks to the heart, not the mind. It says to you, “We are going to make the boogie man go away and we are going to make everything better.” Socialism says, “we can take care of everyone.” (Remember the “WE CAN” part of the “We can take care of everyone” statement here). For the government to develop parks it has to ignore the fact that it has no legal authority to do so using tax revenue, nor does it have the authority to use tax revenue to maintain it, or oversee it, or spend any of tax payer time on that park in any way. The government, by developing parks, is deciding for me to spend money it takes in and spend it on providing something for me, even if I don’t want it. The basis for that position is that the government decided that they felt that if they didn’t develop public parks, the underprivileged wouldn’t have a place to play. The sentiment in that is fine, but the application of the solution is counter-capitalist, and therefore cannot rightfully exist in this country. It is like trying to mix red dye into a glass of clear water and think the dye will only affect a small portion of the glass of water, and therefore won’t be consequential. In other words, you can still have almost all of the clear water you originally had, with only a little itsy-bitsy part of the glass being affected by the dye. It just doesn’t happen that way. You pour red dye in that glass of water and you are going to end up with a glass of red water. It may not happen immediately. You could have a heavy dye that goes straight to the bottom of a still glass of water, but when you agitate the glass, it will color all of the water. If the glass is our society, when has our society not been agitated? You can have a purely capitalist society, or you can have a socialist society that has capitalist tendencies. The minute you use tax payer money to provide something to those who did not pay their share of the costs you have a socialist society. There really isn’t any other way to say it. Like with the red dye going into the glass of clear water, you immediately have a glass of water that no longer is “Clear”. It may take time for the entire glass to become “RED”, but it will become “Red” and therefore you immediately have a “red” glass of water that hasn’t reached its full potential yet.

    What am I saying? I am saying that parks are “Socialist” conventions. They take money and/or property from one person to provide something for use to everyone or a particular group of people. Nobody who reads this post really believes the government should have this right, but they look the other way because the government is doing something they like. I will prove it. If the city of Mt. Juliet were to decide that they wanted to develop a free sex zone, or a drug user zone, or a clown zone, or a abandoned vehicle art park, or a pet zebra park, or some other crazy idea that would benefit a small group of people only, and that you find personally distasteful or wrong, you would be up in arms saying, “What right do you have to take money from me and spend it on those nut-jobs?” That would be because you personally disagree with the behavior or customs of the people who would benefit from such a park. Where it gets fuzzy is when the use is more mainstream, more “normative” in its characteristics. Fact is, if the government has the right to develop a kiddy park, that basically only benefits parents and their children, they have the “Right” to develop a park for just about anything they decide. The city leadership could actually vote to float a bond, spend millions and millions of dollars, and raise property taxes to develop a park you or I will never (NEVER) use. If they are going to have the right to develop parks, they have the right to do it on such a large scale that it nearly bankrupts, or even bankrupts, the city. You say, “well, they would never do that?” I say, “Really?” The federal government is about to pass healthcare, which will almost assuredly put the final nail in this country’s financial coffin. They have taken hundreds of billions of our future dollars (Borrowed against future payments) to buy businesses, make good on campaign promises, and fund their thugs. Can you be 100% sure that there will never be a city commission that would actually build a $20,000,000 aqua center? Remember, it was our current mayor that was pushing so hard to build this monster so she could play to her childhood in Oakridge, Tennessee. She was well on her way to floating a bond to pay for a $20,000,000 aqua center at one point. What if you never would have used that facility? You would be paying for it for years, but wouldn’t be using it. The taxes you pay would be taking money from you that you could be applying to something you do like to do. In essence you would be robbed of your pursuit of happiness by the government so that it could provide for someone else’s happiness. Is it right that they could or would do that? Of course not. But that is exactly what they do, and they do it again and again and again.

    Would you agree to them raising our property tax rates to unbearable levels so they could build the country’s best BMX bike trail? If you ride BMX bikes, you might. But if you have never been on a BMX bike you probably wouldn’t. Who are they do decide?

    But you say, “They are only using sales tax dollars to fund things right now, and if they can do that with just sales tax dollars then it is okay.” Really? If they can run government on less than they take in on sales tax, and they don’t, then they are wasting your money that you pay when you buy things. They could reduce the local option sales taxes instead of spending that money. That would help the public, and if someone wants a park they can start a movement and get their mass of people together and fund it themselves. They could develop memberships. I would probably be less costly in the end if it were run privately anyway, and non-profits could be developed to provide parks to those who cannot afford memberships, or they could fund memberships to those who can’t afford them.

    I could make the case that government being involved in social issues is in a way intrusion in the operation of the Church. By “Church” I mean all religious or anti-religious institutions and groups. It serves the atheist, who is glad the government takes on these issues rather than leave it to religious groups because they get to share the amenities without having to deal with those religious groups. But, like social security, medicare, medicaid, and welfare, parks provide a way for people to get the help they need without having to deal with religious groups or be responsible for themselves.

    “oh, so what you are saying is that a person should have to go to a church for help rather than go to the government?” No, I am saying that a person must be responsible for themselves. If they need assistance beyond what they can do for themselves, there are other avenues rather than let the government into our lives. If you are an atheist, you could form an atheist help group. If you are religious you could form a religious help group. Why does the government have to be involved at all? The government is extremely wasteful and inefficient, they weigh down any system they delve into.

    So, what does this have to do with this particular park? Everything. It shouldn’t have happened in the first place. In other words, the city shouldn’t be in the parks business. The government shouldn’t be involved in welfare, medical provisioning, retirements, or any other social program. I don’t want the government involved in anything that the United States Constitution says that it should. This particular park is nothing but an extension of an overarching problem, which is government sticking its nose into our business. Think about this particular park and you will have to agree, the government has no business being in the park business. If you were running a business, and you had been operating it for 10 years, and it was costing you $190,000 to keep the doors open every year, and there were no prospects of it doing any better, and you even had a substantial growth in population around your business and didn’t experience any substantive change in revenue, would you keep it open or shut it down? I have been there. I owned a restaurant that was costing me about $3,000 per month to keep the doors open, my family was investing nearly 120 per week in working there without earning a single penny in take home pay. One day, I realized there was no way that I was going to change the dynamics of that business (In other words, it wasn’t going to get better). It took me about 1 second, after I realized it wasn’t going to get better, to decide to shut it down. I didn’t want to fail at business. I didn’t want to close the doors. But I realized I had made a mistake, and I wouldn’t throw one red cent more into that mistake once I realized I had made it. That is how the business world works. The way government works is quite the opposite. When government makes a mistake, like medicare, medicaid, welfare, public education, healthcare, and parks, rather than shut them down, they throw more and more money at the problem, even when money isn’t the problem, and they never seem to stop. They just have a hard time admitting that they made a mistake. People aren’t perfect, they make mistakes. Smart people acknowledge their mistakes, learn from them, pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and move on having become better from the experience. Government says, “we are infallible, if it isn’t working the way we envisioned it must be because we aren’t spending enough on it.” The private sector is efficient. It doesn’t allow you to continue to prop up something that doesn’t work. Government can tax you to death, so it doesn’t have to play by the same rules. The federal government is even worse. If it can’t tax you anymore, it simply prints more money! Our government is the worst in the world, because the entire world has hitched its wagon to the star that is the United States. When they print more money it affects the entire world.

    Back to the Constitution. If we were trading products between each other, the product of our labor would be considered “Property” by the Supreme Court. If the government said, “You need to turn over half your herd of cows, or half of your flock of chickens, or you need to turn over half of what you create if you are are woodworker or artist or metalsmith, so we can sell those items to pay for a park, it would be consider an “Illegal taking of property under the 5th amendment”. However, because they take our currency, the supreme court says that isn’t taking “property” and therefore it is legal. Never mind that the currency represents the cows, art, or other products we would have purchased with the fruits of our labor.

    It simply is wrong for the government to take money to spend on parks, and we all agree, even those who won’t admit it. The proof is easy to get to. If the government were to spend money it takes in on a social program you disagree with, you would say, “that’s wrong.” Think about it to the extreme, because if they can do something and you are evaluating it ethically, you can’t place limits on it. In other words, if they were to tax you to a point that it hurts you financially, you not only feel it, but it causes you pain, and they were using that money to fund something you are morally against, is it right? If they tax you to a point you can pay no more, and then they drop other causes you believe in so they can fund the project you are not in favor of, is it still okay? If they were to leave the country unsafe as a result of spending the money on the project you don’t support, would it still be okay? If you say “no” to any those questions than you agree with me…the government has no business being in the “Parks” business. They have no business in the medical business, the welfare business, the social reform business, the block grants money business, the retirement and social security business, or any other domestic social policy arena. It isn’t their business, and any effort on their part, other than “promoting” it as it states in the Constitution, is inappropriate.

    I couldn’t be more in favor of selling Mundy Park. If not to the church, to someone, and at a fair market price. I know they will develop another park somewhere else, because our society has been “Socialized”, but a guy can dream, can’t he. I long for a free society, free from government intervention, intrusion, and free from public dependency on government. Government’s job is to regulate (meaning keep things fair) and protect, not provide and oppress. When we finally learn that government is not the answer to our problems we will once again become a great nation.

    Sell the parks, turn them over to non-profits to run, and get on with the actual and rightful business of “governing”.

  5. Paul Deyo

    Butch, as you know we don’t concur on land donations and I don’t want to open that can of worms again. But as an FYI this one, if I recall correctly, was done with a cash donation. A check for 50k was presented by the developer to the city. The city then turned around and bought the land, which was owned by the developer. Somebody correct me if I got that one wrong. The next step of course was to spend a fortune on a softball park for out-of-town leagues. I remember that ‘we fill up the Microtel’ was a justification when I was sniping at this park from my Parks Board seat.

    While I essentially share your view of limiting the scope of government, I would include parks along with police, fire, zoning and codes and infrastructure as a legitimate function of government. Where we come closer to agreeing is that I don’t see parkland as a canvas for government to fulfill the wishes of every sports team or sports enthusiast. I agree that aspect should be handled privately. The Little League park through Ray and others has been trying to get the city to absorb them for years with the argument that the city has built facilities for other team sports (including Mundy). I don’t agree with the end result they want but I see their logic.

    I see municipal parkland in much the same way as Teddy Roosevelt envisioned National Parks when he established them, as a means of preserving an increasingly finite resource. If there is no parkland here, Mt. Juliet will become a swamp of cookie-cutter tightly packed residences. Especially now, when some at city hall at least give the appearance of being for sale, we cannot assume the private sector will have any interest in anything but maximizing their profit margins here. Parkland not only improves quality of life, it protects land values.

    But I am still at least curious about the motivations for selling Mundy Park, the motivations for not selling it, the role the mayor has played and whether or not those actions pass the smell test.

  6. Southsider

    It is pretty sad when everything the Mayor does causes such suspicion.

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