Mayor mum on ballpark veto decision

EL PASO, Texas - The bases are loaded, it's the bottom of the 9th inning and Mayor John Cook is at the plate.

Will he or won't he veto Tuesday's 4-3 City Council vote to tear down City Hall and build a ballpark?

At this point, it looks like Cook's decision on whether or not to save the building is headed for extra innings, although some of the last minute moves he made before Tuesday's vote give some clues about what factors are on the Mayor's mind as he decides whether to let a Triple-A team play ball on the City Hall site.

Since the ballpark decision was made, Cook has had his game face on. After leaving Council chambers abruptly, he refused to answer questions Wednesday about his decision on whether to veto the decision or not.

But Cook did tell ABC-7 via text on Tuesday night that he would make his decision Wednesday, although he may not make it public until Thursday.
When pressed about which way he's leaning, he texted back: "Keeping everyone in suspense. Wednesday I am driving to Austin for (my daughter) Jennifer's wedding so I will have a lot of time to reflect on Tuesday's testimony."

Last minute on Monday, the day before the ballpark vote, Cook asked City Engineer Alan Shubert to do an alternate study of another area to possibly build a ballpark -- the area a block south of the Convention Center.

"It was kind of a last minute request," Shubert said, adding he thinks Cook was doing his due diligence to make sure City Hall is the only downtown site where the ballpark could be built by 2014. "I think it's important for a couple of reasons. One is that the issue over the value of City Hall and the parcel City Hall sits on. The appraised value is in the $13 million range not $38 (million). It would cost that to replace it."

Shubert said the second reason the study was important is because it concluded it would cost at least $24 million to acquire the alternate area.
"I think it has to be (a major factor in his decision)," Shubert said. "At any rate, if you think of it in terms of diligence, comparing this kind of cost to that value to the cost to do other things, would certainly weigh on his decision."

Shubert went on to say that property just south of the Convention Center, if acquired by the City, could be strategic as Downtown continues develop. But he said it would take at least a couple of years minimum to acquire that land and with so many layers of contingency that purchase could easily come unwound.

ABC-7 did try several times to reach Cook on Wednesday afternoon, but he did not return calls or texts.

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