City Council Wants Independent Consultant to Vet Ballpark Plan 

Richmond City Council wants Mayor Dwight Jones to find $50,000 in the city budget to hire an independent consultant to vet his ballpark proposal.

City Council Vice President Ellen Robertson said council lacks the in-house expertise to evaluate the negotiated proposals the mayor’s staff plans to present the body at the end of the month.

Robertson and Councilwoman Michelle Mosby introduced an expedited resolution at Monday night’s City Council meeting asking Jones to amend the current year’s budget to provide the necessary funding. Council approved the proposal on a 7-2 vote, with Councilman Chris Hilbert and Councilwoman Reva Trammell opposing.

“We are giving ourselves a very short period of time to look at a lot of information, and as the administration recognizes when they’re dealing with specialty things, they hire consultants to help them make decisions,” Robertson said. “It’s only logical that council should hire specialists to help us make decisions as well.”

The resolution specifies that council wants to hire a consulting firm with no financial interest in the planned development. Robertson said the $50,000 figure an estimate of the maximum the consulting work would cost. She also said she’d heard from consulting firms who are willing to do some of the work for free.

The resolution specifies that the firm will:

  1. Review of the business and financial aspect of constructing and financing the developments contemplated for the flood plain located in the Shockoe Bottom area of the city to furnish the council with objective data on the design, benefits, feasibility, and financing structure of these developments.

  2. Market analysis that considers competition for different components of the contemplated developments.

  3. Review of plans for infrastructure and the mitigation of issues relating to the location of those developments to be located in the flood plain.

  4. Review of the architectural design of the developments contemplated for the Shockoe Bottom area and the North Boulevard area.

  5. Review of the “pro forma” and other information provided by the developers of these developments.

  6. Assessments of assumptions of revenues and expenses for all phases of the contemplated developments.

  7. Analysis of any debt and financing plans related to the contemplated developments.

City Council doesn’t have the authority to amend the current year’s city budget and can only ask that the mayor move to do so. Tammy Hawley, Jones’ press secretary, said Monday night that the mayor’s office still hasn’t seen the expedited resolution, but she added: “We are very comfortable with the notion of third party validation. We need to get on the same page as to how that can be accomplished.”

Trammell said she opposed the measure because the funds would be better spent on infrastructure. She said she thinks council members should be able to evaluate the mayor’s proposal on their own. Trammell has already said she’ll oppose the mayor’s proposal to contruct a stadium in Shockoe Bottom.

Councilman Parker Agelasto said he’s concerned that it will be difficult to find a consultant with expertise in all the areas council is asking for the review. He also questioned whether a consultant would have sufficient time to do a thorough review of the proposals. Councilman Chris Hilbert raised similar issues.

Robertson said she expects council will be able to hire a consultant that can at least assemble the necessary expertise. Regarding the timeline, she said it is just an issue council needs to work with.

“Yes, it’s tight,” Robertson said. “Yes, it may not be the best way to do business. […] But here we are.”

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