Kent City Should Help Center More

July 23, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Kent County Commission Chairman Steven Heacock told the Business Journal last week that he was disappointed in the lack of support the city has provided for the $220 million convention center project.

His comment came in response to recent remarks made by Mayor John Logie at a Downtown Development Authority meeting. Logie said that the city and DDA have both given $5 million to the DeVos Place project, and that the county was in better financial shape than the city and DDA to donate $5 million to the project’s $12.7 million shortfall.

Although Logie acknowledged that the county has pledged $86 million to the project, he said those funds were coming from visitors through the hotel-motel tax and not from the county’s general fund like the city’s dollars have.

But Heacock compared the city’s involvement in the project to having the county be invited by the city to renovate a school building, and then being told that the extent of the city’s input is to give the county access to the school.

“I don’t see that as a contribution. Other than the $5 million the DDA gave, they really have not contributed to the project,” said Heacock.

“The county has put in $90 million. Granted its source is the hotel-motel funding. But that’s still discretionary spending on the county’s part,” he added.

In addition to the $86 million bond package the county backed, it has also funded the building’s $4 million marketing campaign. And as for having deeper pockets than the city, Heacock said that doesn’t mean the county should be punished for managing its money better than the city has.

Heacock also said it’s not too late for the city to jump in and help finance the shortfall, a move he hopes the city will make because the city will benefit from the new building.

“It’s certainly going to increase monies they’re going to get from parking revenues. It will increase their income tax, as it will employ a number of people, primarily city folks,” he said. “I just hope that they will show some support for the project.”

Heacock added that he and his commissioners remain strongly committed to the project because the county wants it to be a successful development.

“Certainly we’ll look at how we can help it succeed as we go forward, but we’re not going to do it all. That is just not appropriate for county taxpayers,” he said.

Logie chairs the Convention and Arena Authority, the board that will run DeVos Place and the panel that made the $5 million request to the DDA. He also sits on the DDA board. Heacock chairs the CAA Finance Committee, and served as the board’s chairman for two years until January.

“I’m just disappointed,” said Heacock of the city’s involvement. “There are obvious benefits from this project to the city and its residents.”   

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