-By resident Bill Kelly
The Hercules City Council is faced with a serious pair of problems: one is how to pay the debts owed AMBAC, Oliver, and others, while the other is how to generate new ongoing income in the future from which to fund our ongoing municipal services. The Council has apparently chosen to make paying the debt the number one priority, while leaving the question of how Hercules continues to operate on a day-to-day basis to be dealt with later. I cannot endorse this plan. Hercules needs a clear road map into the future
It is surely true that Hercules must pay its debts or go bankrupt; it is similarly true that Hercules must fund city services into the future. The current idea appears to be that the City sells its land holdings, uses the money to pay the debts which are presently due, and by doing so saves the ITC (which will be built over the next few years using grant money) and all will then be well and great. A kind of, "If We Build It They Will Come Plan"?
There are some holes in that reasoning. Firstly, the present plan calls for a significant increase in non-owner occupied residential units. Second, it is clear that a ferry for Hercules is and always has been a pipe dream.
A planned 140 new rentals at Sycamore North and an addition 350 rentals on Parcel C -- this adds 490 new "homes" all of which will require police, school, fire, street cleaning, etc. Where will the money come from to pay for these City provided services. Property taxes? All of the land being sold was RDA land and my understanding is that this means the property taxes or, at least as significant part of that money ends up with the so-called "successor agency" and is applied to bond debt -- remember there is over $300 million of that. Given the Successor Agency's estimated ability to pay toward that debt and the total owed including the interest accruing we are likely to paying on that debt for over 30 years into the future.So how will the service need by our new residents be paid for -- right now nobody has a clue as far as I can see!
Jeff Wiesnewski recently confirmed in his blog that Hercules is the only site being considered by the Water Emergency Transportation Agency (WETA) for a ferry terminal which will require dredging before the boat can come to shore -- about $17 million in dredging plus another $2 million or so every other year to keep the channel clear. There is no reason to believe that WETA would chose Hercules over Richmond, Berkeley, Rodeo, etc where this expense would not be required. This is a fact that should have been revealed to Herculeans 10 year ago when the Dream was first presented. The Ferry is what might make the ITC interesting to businesses and travelers, without it we will have a train stop connecting to a bus stop.
Our Council must rethink its plan; Hercules needs new tax incomes as soon as possible. We can't continue to be using yesterday's rules to solve today's problems. The idea that our brokers passively put out the fact that the property was available tells the whole story in my view. Where was the one on one contact to targeted retailers -- as one local Realtor is now doing with Apple. WalMart, in spite of the sad ending to that fiasco, was attracted to Hercules. Costco gave Hercules serious recent consideration.
Where is our outreach to potential new businesses. It is non-existent. We seem scared to get out into he market place.
Hercules must adopt a "Create a Need and Fill It" philosophy and stop laying down and saying this is the best we can do, the best we can be.
Or THIS will be our best into the foreseeable future.