EDITORIAL: Rotterdam made best of a bad situation

The entrance to the former Kmart at ViaPort Rotterdam
The entrance to the former Kmart at ViaPort Rotterdam

If you’re a government official, sometimes you have to accept the consequences of a questionable decision, cut your losses and move on — even at a cost.

As painful as it is for the town of Rotterdam to have to eat $243,750 of a $1 million deposit on space at the ViaPort Rotterdam mall, it’s in the best interests to move on.

The settlement will save taxpayers the potential costs of litigation, which could rapidly escalate into tens of thousands of dollars, and the potential of having to pay more money if the town loses the case, perhaps $4 million to $5 million, or if the mall sued for its losses from not having the space available to rent to someone else.

The settlement also removes the town from a potentially costly deal that would have cost taxpayers $9.2 million for the town to move into the space and upwards of $55 million over the next 30 years for maintenance of the property.

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By settling now for what seems like a fairly reasonable $243,750 to get the town’s $1 million deposit back, this allows the town to avoid that expense and opens the way to move forward in finding a solution to its future space needs.

Is it the ideal solution? No. Would it have been better if the town hadn’t entered into the original agreement in the first place and hadn’t put down a $1 million deposit? In hindsight, yes. In reality, this situation might have been more difficult and expensive for the town to get out of had it held the required referendum on the deal. So this settlement might be an even bigger bargain for taxpayers than it could have been.

Regardless, there’s a price for making mistakes and avoiding making those mistakes bigger. This is it.

This all started because the town needs to upgrade and expand its government operations.

Renovations to the existing town hall are estimated at around $14 million.

So town officials explored the idea of moving town operations — including the police department and town justice court — into the vacant former Kmart store in the mall. The 50,000 square feet of space was to accommodate 100 town employees, eliminating the need to upgrade the existing town facilities, moving municipal offices closer together, and allowing the town to sell the aging John F. Kirvin Government Center.

But the town commissioned a study earlier this year that concluded that costs of establishing town headquarters at the mall would be significantly higher than anticipated by a previous administration, and the current board this summer voted to nullify the original agreement that included the $1 million deposit.

The nullification could be seen as a blessing in disguise.

It’s true the town still needs to find better accommodations for government operations.

But as we said in August, being free from this long lease allows the town to consider new options for either renovating the building on Sunset Boulevard and/or relocating all or some town offices somewhere else.

Maybe there’s even a way for the town to use some space at the mall if the town and the mall can maintain a good relationship despite this dust-up.

The effort to lease space at the mall was a reasonable one. Someone should be held accountable for the unanticipated higher expenses associated with the lease that prompted the town to seek a way out of the agreement. And yes, the town will forfeit some money from its fund balance to pay to get out of the deal.

But it could have ended worse for taxpayers. A lot worse.

Better to cut and run than flush more taxpayer money down the drain.

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Categories: Editorial, Opinion, Rotterdam



Now that the Town Board Rotterdam has recovered 3/4 of the one million paid to Viaport Mall, when are we getting 1/4 of a million not recovered?

Current members of the Rotterdam administration & past members who thought the Viaport deal was good for Rotterdam need to pay up.

A new gold standard in local government needs to be established. You cost the taxpayer due to malfeasance, you pay. The gold in government today is the pensions & salaries board members walk away with.

The town attorney has an attitude problem. “I work for the board”. WRONG, you work for the taxpayer. Why does the board tolerate an attorney who does not recognize the supremacy of the taxpayer? Answer, the board does not recognize the supremacy of the taxpayer. Does any politician?

Reparations to taxpayers.

My goodness, the dog whistles..

I have a solid, fair source that tells me racism played no small part in this whole fiasco. Viaport is a Turkish company, which if one looks into their portfolio has a history of successful, and creative reuses of failing malls in the US and abroad. Viaport has already done some innovative things with this mall.

Rotterdam owes a debt of at least gratitude to Viaport for trying to keep it from becoming another total abandonment. Rotterdam would do well to remember what they went through while the mall sat on the brink of becoming an overgrown shell.

“Reparations”, indeed.

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