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Blueprint votes to allocate $20 million to FSU for Doak repairs and improvements

Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 8:05 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency voted to allocate $20 million to Florida State University for infrastructure repairs to Doak Campbell Stadium.

Monday afternoon’s meeting was lengthy and contentious, with about 30 public speakers. Some argued it is an incorrect use of local tax dollars, while others pointed to the economic driver FSU represents.

Commissioner Carolyn Cummings, Mayor John Dailey, Commissioner Curtis Richardson, Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox, Commissioner Jimbo Jackson, Commissioner Rick Minor, Commissioner Bill Proctor, and Commissioner Nick Maddox were in favor of the funding.

Commissioner Jeremy Matlow, Commissioner Jack Porter, Commissioner Kristin Dozier, and Commissioner Brian Welch voted against the $20 million.

Leon County Commissioner Kristin Dozier spoke to WCTV before the meeting about why she was not in favor of the funding, citing the lack of money that would be left for small business development.

“It’s just a matter of not having enough money to do everything. I would rather focus on new businesses, which is the intent of this money after the referendum in ‘14, versus an existing industry, and particularly one that, for FSU, can raise their own dollars,” Commissioner Dozier said.

Commissioners Williams-Cox and Proctor said they believed a vote against the funding would be going back on their word.

“You can’t make money if you don’t spend money,” Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox said. “We voted on this, and we said come back with this. They came back with this. And now, the time to educate and explain all of this was from May to now. But all this kicked up a couple of days ago, and there was this frantic whatever to choose sides. That’s unfair to our community, that’s unfair to FSU, that’s unfair to FAMU.

“It leaves a pretty bad impression as statespersons if our word is not good from May 27 to September 27,” Commissioner Bill Proctor said.

In May of 2021, the Board voted 9-3 to move forward with the funding process.

“Either our word means something, or it doesn’t. I don’t like flip flopping,” Williams-Cox said. “My grandmother told me a long time ago, ‘Your word is your bond.’”

Commissioner Dozier pushed for a delay of the vote.

“I think this is going to come back to haunt every single one of us,” Dozier said. “FSU is raising their money, they are on their way. It’s not urgent; they could wait until February.”

Renovation needs at Doak

FSU plans to raise $100 million for fan enhancements and upgrades to the stadium; at Friday afternoon’s Board of Trustees meeting, the Boosters Chair told the group they had raised about $53 million so far.

The $20 million the university requested from Blueprint would be in addition to the $100 million, but the local government dollars would only be used for infrastructure improvements.

Those improvements are related to safety, ADA accessibility, and code compliance.

The safety repairs total $17.97 million, including emergency lighting, trip hazard mitigation, fire protection, and improved egress.

The accessibility repairs would cost $6.63 million for ADA compliance improvements, including accessible parking, seating, and routes.

Code compliance repairs would cost $1.73 million, addressing issues that do not conform to national building standards; those include water coolers, the removal of wooden structures, and the updating of fixtures.

Maintenance repairs would cost $6.64 million for elevators, aging electrical equipment, and exposed water piping.

According to the agenda item, a typical FSU football season has an economic impact of $80.1 million.

FSU says part of the goal is to make Doak a year-round venue, with events happening on non-football weekends.

Blueprint has previously allocated money for sporting facilities of other Tallahassee colleges and universities.

The intergovernmental agency gave $10 million to FAMU for repairs to Bragg Memorial Stadium and $1 million to TCC for athletic facility improvements.

Office of Economic Vitality funding

In the agenda item, Blueprint staff writes: “It is important to note that there is only $20 million left in bonding capacity for OEV’s budget over the remaining lifetime of the 20 year sales tax collection. Should the IA Board provide direction to fund the Doak Campbell Stadium project, OEV will have met the full bonding capacity available within the 20-year CIP, and will be unable to bond or finance any additional projects.”

Commissioner Carolyn Cummings pointed out the nature of the funding during her comments. The economic development portion of the sales tax makes up 12% of the total Blueprint funds. She pointed out that funding stadium improvements would not run the infrastructure sales tax coffers dry.

Commissioner Brian Welch had concerns about spending the OEV dollars for the project, pointing to economic incentives given to Amazon.

“You gotta be really ready to pounce on these economic development opportunities. And so, for me, I cannot support giving 20 million dollars at this point to FSU, just because it leaves the bank account empty. And I don’t think that we, in our personal finances, would do the same thing.”

However, Commissioner Curtis Richardson pointed to other incentives that are not economic in nature that could attract businesses to Tallahassee.

“We own our own public utility. We could offer that as a part of the negotiation, utility cost, infrastructure improvements, land that we have plenty of around the airport,” Richardson said.

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