Thursday, September 01, 2005

Using the D-word

I posted this over on the Iowa Porkforest website. There's lots more from other contributors.

From today's Iowa City Press-Citizen:
CORALVILLE -- A proposed $180 million rain forest project is in danger of extinction in Coralville.

The project has been controversial, with leaders saying it will bring 500 construction and 200 permanent jobs, attract 1.1 million to 1.5 million visitors annually and add $187 million to the state every year. But critics have said project leadership has been lacking and question where the final funding from the project will come from.

The $180 million project has been at about the halfway mark on funding since a $50 million Department of Energy grant in January 2004. Oman indicated for the first time Wednesday that the board has considered taking on debt for part of the funding to get the project started and avoid rising construction costs.

"I don't know if we're going to need to take on some debt or not," Oman said. "The board would prefer that we not."

Schnake said that would be a breaking earlier promises from project leaders.

"The commitment all along was that not a shovel would be turned until it was fully funded," she said.

Is this really a surprise?

Take a look at this article from back in December:
Oman also said that in a few months, several million more dollars should come into the project, which reached the halfway mark at $90 million in January.

He said project officials hope want to at least have a ceremonial groundbreaking in mid-2005, even if not all the money is secured. Oman said a groundbreaking could encourage the last of the funding to come through.

"You don't need to have every dollar in the drawer before you ... begin construction," he said.

They have planned all along to begin construction before the project was fully funded.

Want more fun quotes? Try this article:
Quellhorst said the project has $90 million to $10 million from project founder Ted Townsend, $10 million from an energy deal, $20 million in land and infrastructure from Coralville and, most recently, $50 million from the federal Department of Energy earmarked in January 2004.

Oman has said that funding would be coming through in several months.

Quellhorst said project officials continue to work with businesses and individuals for funding and said most of the process involved building trust.

"You really have to do some friend-raising before you can do fund-raising," she said.

Fundraising to fund fundraisers. I think we've got a new tongue-twister.

Or how about this quote from back in July 2004:
"'Without question, you have to have clarity on almost all the financing by the end of this year to unfold the timetable that I talked about for next year,' Oman said. 'In a design-build scenario, you don't have to have everything, every detail, designed when you start work, but you certainly have to have your scope, your budget and a pretty good idea of what you're going to build.'"

Hm. We just switched architects, we're redesigning the thing, and we had . . . oh . . . zero new financing on board by the end of 2004.

I think it's time to wake up and see the iceberg, 'cause this Titanic is about to sink.

Gotta love this morning's editorial by the Press-Citizen, taking no real stance whatsoever:
As David Oman, executive director of The Environment Project, told us in a meeting Wednesday, the project's goal is "inspiring generations to learn from nature."

That lofty goal, however, now appears to be threatened by the more practical concerns of local government.

Oh, so your opinion is that the rainforest is an inspiring project threatened by petty local concerns? Well, maybe not so much:
Why has this project changed architects at such a crucial time in its fund-raising efforts? And will the new plans still match the requirements in the draft land-transfer agreement, which the Coralville City Council has given a make-or-break Sept. 20 deadline? As City Council member Jean Schnake told our reporter, "To me it's just more spin. ... So they've got an architect. They had an architect. They had a project that was supposed to be outstanding." She later added, "How many times can we start over?"

Okay, so you mean it's a boondoggle that's only getting worse and we're better off ditching it. Right?
There is still a chance this project will be completed, and there is little doubt that Grimshaw Architects, if the funds are there, will erect an impressive structure. Either way, our local leaders should be applauded for keeping the public interest at the forefront of their thoughts and deliberations.

I see. The answer is C, all of the above. Way to take a stand. Maybe we should pitch in and buy them this?

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