Quality of Life signature projects: Opportunities and concerns to go before council

Tuesday night, the consultants met with the public one last time to talk about the possibilities.

Quality of life bond meeting

EL PASO, Texas - El Paso City Council will meet Wednesday in a special session to discuss the signature projects of the Quality of Life bonds.

But Tuesday night, the consultants met with the public one last time to talk about the possibilities. The consultants are very excited about the signature projects, which are the Multipurpose Cultural and Performing Arts Facility, Hispanic Cultural Center, and Children's Museum.

But the message is clear, bringing Quality of Life to the city comes with a cost.

"Progress is always going to cost some money," said Director of Business Development for Jordan Foster Construction Company Joe Gomez. "And you got to be able to say, you know, I'm going to bite the bullet. Because I want this progress for my children, for my grandchildren."

Gomez has attended all six community meetings hosted by HKS, Inc., the group planning the Quality of Life signature projects.

"I think the fact that we've been so progressive, especially in downtown, has brought a lot of our youth back; when we used to have a brain drain, now we're seeing a lot of people come back," Gomez said.

Gomez and a roomful of others, listened to HKS talk about the operating costs and market studies, such as who will come to the $180 million downtown entertainment arena, or the $19.25 million Children's Museum, and the $5.75 million a Hispanic Cultural Center.

HKS also talked about the real estate- where could they go? Some taxpayers are concerned this could increase property value and are wondering, has El Paso bitten off more than it can chew by promising to pay for them, with no promise of their profitability?

"I think we view it as voters spoke in terms of what they want, in terms of the $473 million worth Quality of Life projects, overwhelming support for both referendums," said City Project Manager Byran Crowe. "And we're bringing those projects forward. And there's a cost associated with bringing in these amenities, but I think that's what El Pasoans wanted."

Our media partner El Paso Inc. reports that with the cost of the bonds, including certificates of obligation, and ballpark costs, the city's long term debt now stands at $614 million, not including previous debt.

"There will always be those people that don't want to have additional property taxes," Gomez said. " I don't have deep pockets but I want to see this city progress and I want to leave it better than when I got here."

Wednesday, City Council also has an additional element to consider-- the timing. Crowe said the sooner we can get started on these projects, the cheaper it will be.

Inflation over time will whittle away at the $180 million voters, by increasing the price of materials and labor, set aside for the arena. The longer these projects take to build, the smaller they will be. 

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