A proposed lease agreement between the city and the Clinton LumberKings baseball team was called into question by Fourth Ward City Councilman Paul Gassman at Tuesday’s meeting of the committee of the whole. Gassman opposed the potential decade-long agreement, believing it to be not particularly beneficial to the community.
The lease, which would run from October 1, 2011 to December 31, 2022, calls for a $500 annual rent fee to be paid to the city by the ball club. Gassman said the rent was “ridiculous” and that in no other situations would a tenant be able to lock in rental fees for over a decade.
“That’s not a very fair value for such an expensive piece of real estate,” Gassman said, later adding, “I don’t think a $500 lease agreement for that many years is appropriate.”
He also expressed disappointment the proposed lease skipped over initial evaluation by the Internal Operations Committee. At large Councilman Mark Vulich said that the rush was necessary to try and line up lease agreements with the ball club’s potential corporate sponsor agreement.
Ted Tornow, general manager of the LumberKings, spoke up in defense of the organization, saying the community benefited in many ways from its presence.
“In defense of my organization, it may say $500, or however you want to spin it,” but the city is receiving financial benefits from the club, Tornow said.
He said the lights were paid for by the LumberKings, and the field was maintained by the organization.
Tornow said the club purchased a new boiler at the facility, even though the cost should have come from the city.
Tornow also tried to dispel a rumor that the club was difficult for Clinton High School or Ashford University to work with. Part of the lease agreement requires the club make the field available to local organizations that wish to use it.
“The only time it’s difficult is when we have a game,” Tornow said, adding that he would not put his staff through the stress of having to work LumberKings games and local sports team games on the same days.
Second Ward Councilman Mike Kearney pointed out that as Clinton is one of the smallest cities to have a professional baseball team, it would be prudent to offer some leeway. Vulich agreed, adding that the city of Burlington, which also has a professional team, actually pays that organization to stay in the city.
“I think the economic draw from the team,” justifies the lease, Vulich said. “We are making money from people out of town.”
The committee approved sending the lease agreement onto the next City Council agenda, with Gassman opposing.
In other action, the committee:
• Listened to a presentation by Chance Kness, emergency management coordinator for Clinton County, on the establishment of a Community Emergence Response Team training program.
Participants would gain “an idea of what emergency responders deal with,” Kness said. “(It would) give them some resiliency ...if a large scale disaster or emergency happens.”
Participants would go through 20 hours of training to become a CERT member.
Training would include basic firefighting, triage and terrorism awareness. Kness said the training would allow CERT members to take care of the priorities — self, family and neighborhood — before becoming an asset to the community in times of crisis.
“If all of that’s taken care of and you don’t have to worry about the ones you love, then you can respond with the rest of the emergency response team,” Kness said.
Two informational meetings will be held today at the Clinton County Courthouse in the Emergency Management office. The first meeting will be held at 2 p.m. and the second at 7 p.m. Following the meetings, assuming a minimum classload of 15 can be assembled, training sessions would be scheduled to the convenience of CERT trainees.
Third Ward Councilwoman Bev Hermann attended a CERT training program in Bettendorf in a previous year, and said the training was invaluable to the community.
“It would be valuable for those of us here on the council to take,” Hermann said. “You learn all kinds of things that can help ...It’s great training. Where help is needed, you know what to do. I recommend it for anyone.”
Kness said that the training is open to all who wish to participate, regardless of physical ability.
“You don’t need to be able to life a Volkswagen to be on the team,” Kness said.
Applicants would undergo a basic background check, as CERT members could potentially be placed in positions of responsibility.
Those ages 16 and 17 would need special parental permission to join.
• Forwarded a recommendation for establishing a residential parking permit system for public streets near Ashford University.
City Attorney Jeff Farwell said the neighbors in the community have complained of Ashford students flooding their streets, occasionally blocking alleyways and littering neighborhoods with garbage.
“They like to roll out of bed and right into class,” Farwell said of the students.
The committee approved the proposal with First Ward Councilwoman Maggie Klaes opposing.