Las Vegas Sun

May 3, 2015

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City Hall project gets support, leaders note risks

Top city of Las Vegas staffers and most of the City Council expressed continued support for the new City Hall project at the council’s Wednesday meeting, reasoning that the risks of delay outweighed those of moving forward despite the faltering economy.

The council approved a preliminary financial assessment report and directed staffers to complete a detailed study, which will suggest what method of financing should be used for the project and exactly how much it will cost. No money was allocated in Wednesday’s vote.

Sometime between September and the end of the year, the council will revisit the issue and decide whether the city can afford a new City Hall, which at latest estimate could cost up to $267 million.

Supporters argued that by delaying the new City Hall, each of the potential major new developments connected to the deal – including two possible new casinos and a sports arena – could falter, indefinitely setting back the plans of Mayor Oscar Goodman and the council for a revitalized downtown.

Plus, thousands of construction and other jobs would be lost, they argued.

New City Hall is like the first in a line of carefully constructed dominoes, Goodman said.

“If one falls, they all fall…I don’t think we have a choice unless we want to throw up our hands” and in effect give up, he said.

Not every council member was as enthusiastic – a glaring departure from a once-unified council front in favor of the project. Concern stemmed from the recession, and the risks inherent in moving forward when the timing of a recovery could not predicted.

Newly elected Councilman Stavros Anthony issued the only vote against accepting the report.

“It’s too risky a project,” Anthony said. “The timing isn’t right.”

Others, including council members Steve Wolfson and Lois Tarkanian, said they were reserving judgment until the weightier vote later this year comes before them. Wolfson said it may prove to be the toughest vote of his career.

One repeated concern, even among those who expressed support for the plan, was the method of financing for the project – and if the city’s general fund would be put at risk. Staffers conceded this was a possibility if a slowed economy lowered the amount raised by the city’s Redevelopment Agency.

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