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One More Hidden Arena Expense 

Syfert surprises City Council

Pam Syfert did it again. The City Manager sprang another $1.2 million arena-related expense on City Council last Monday night, July 25. It was an expense she hadn't gotten around to mentioning in the years since Council approved the arena deal with the NBA and Bobcats owner Bob Johnson.

Several Councilmembers were surprised to learn they would be voting on a three-year, $1.2 million transportation management contract with a consultant paid to figure out how to reroute traffic during the approximately 150 events that will be held annually at the new arena.

It's the second time Syfert has done this to City Council. About a year ago, Council members were surprised to find out the city had agreed during arena negotiations to provide free traffic control to the Bobcats, to the tune of $800,000. Though the city's contract with the team doesn't technically require it, Syfert said the city is responsible for traffic control outside the arena while the team is responsible for crowd control inside it and on the sidewalk around it.

Some Council members were not pleased with the last minute information, nor the fact that it was buried in the consent part of their agenda. Republican Councilmember John Tabor asked Syfert why Council hadn't gotten a presentation on the contract, when it seems they get presentations on everything else.

"It feels like we snuck it in there," Tabor said. Syfert told him Council is backed up on presentations and the contract is time sensitive.

Susan Burgess, a Democrat, was steamed that the contract wasn't part of the city's recent budget deliberations, since the money to pay for it will come from the transportation budget during a time when Charlotte lacks funds to repave roads and fill potholes.

"If we compare it with road resurfacing or pothole filling, I just don't think it would come to the top [in the budget process]," said Burgess.

Burgess said other cities were beginning to turn similar kinds of expenses over to local sports teams and she wants to do the same here. A spokesperson for the Bobcats declined to comment on the situation.

Burgess ultimately convinced Council to knock the contract down from three years to one and review the expense during budget time next year.

Syfert cautioned Council they should think of the contract as more of an uptown traffic management contract since it is also about making sure arena events don't interfere with arts performances and other goings-on downtown.

The contract was ultimately approved 7-3 with Pat Mumford, Patsy Kinsey and John Lassiter voting against it.

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