Thursday, April 29, 2010

Russell supports Ingalls funding plan

By Evan Belanger, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

Decatur Councilman Ronny Russell says he’ll support a plan to borrow surplus money from the city’s financial reserve to fund construction of a 25,000-square-foot pavilion at Ingalls Harbor.

City officials discussed Monday a plan to loan up to $2.8 million for the project from the city’s reserve, which has a $4.99 million surplus from previous years.

Russell, who was not present for the meeting, was expected to oppose the plan after he alleged last year that city officials had artificially created the surplus by reinterpreting the city’s reserve policy.


But he said Wednesday he had no problem with plan, because the money would be paid back through revenue generated by the local Hospitality Association’s $2-per-night room-occupancy fee charged for local hotel stays.

“What is being proposed here is completely a different scenario from simply raiding the city’s reserve and having no plan to repay the funds,” he wrote in an e-mail to The Daily.

Russell said he still opposes redefining the reserve policy without declaration of financial emergency, and that he will not support a proposal for repayment of the loan to go to funds other than the reserve fund.

But he said investment in Ingalls Harbor is worthwhile.

“We’ve seen great return on our investment at Ingalls, and I think the pavilion will add to that, and I think it’s needed,” he said.

Requested by the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Hospitality Association, the proposed building project is intended to expand use of the city-owned facility beyond its primary function as a site for fishing tournaments.

Funded by outsiders

The City Council will consider a resolution Monday to advance up to $2.8 million to cover the project’s cost.

Mayor Don Stanford emphasized Wednesday the cost of the pavilion would be covered primarily by out-of-town visitors because local residents are not likely to stay in Decatur hotels.

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