Committee OKs 5M For DeVos Place

    GRAND RAPIDS — The Finance and Physical Resources Committee of Kent County approved an additional contribution of $5 million last week to help close the funding gap to build DeVos Place, the new convention center.

    County commissioners will take up the measure on Sept. 12.

    If board members approve it, the $5 million will bring the county’s financial involvement in the project to $95 million, with $86 million of that amount having been invested last year in construction bonds backed by receipts from the county’s lodging excise tax.

    The additional monies will come from the county’s unreserved and undesignated general fund account, which has a balance of nearly $39.2 million.

    But the county’s contribution is contingent on the Downtown Development Authority also giving $5 million to the building project. DDA members agreed to do so two weeks ago and the board plans to issue bonds to finance the gift.

    City commissioners, however, have to approve the bond package and they may vote on the request on Sept. 10. The allocation would bring the DDA’s investment in the project to $10 million.

    “I look at this as a city contribution much like I look at the hotel-motel tax as a county contribution,” said Kent County Commission Chairman Steven Heacock. “So in this circumstance, I view this as a 50-50 split between the city and county.”

    Heacock told committee members that $207.3 million has been secured and pledged to the $220 million project, leaving the budget $12.7 million short. Donations from the county and DDA will erase $10 million of that deficit, with the remainder expected to come from contingences in the construction budget.

    DDA Chairman Verne Barry and Heacock hammered out the agreement in July that cut the shortfall. A prime candidate to back the DDA bond package is the City/County Building Authority.

    Kent Vice Chairman David Morren said the county was only able to contribute more to the project because of the board’s longtime conservative fiscal practices. He added that the county is able to make the contribution without disrupting its current budget.

    As for the county budget, Kent Administrator and Controller Daryl Delabbio said the county’s $10.7 million portion of state statutory revenue-sharing funds has been put back into the FY03 budget after lawmakers overrode Gov. John Engler’s veto of those dollars.

    The proposed budget shows $388.3 million for operating costs and $13.9 million for capital expenditures. Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the budget on Sept. 12 and then vote on whether to adopt it on Sept. 26. The county’s fiscal year starts on Jan. 1. 

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