Westfield councilman wants $6M loan for Grand Park repaid

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A Westfield city councilman says a $6 million loan for Grand Park made in 2014 should be repaid to the city, calling the matter a “blatant disregard” by Mayor Andy Cook.

City Councilman Troy Patton, who expressed frustration during an Aug. 2 city council finance committee meeting, said the $6 million shouldn’t have been used for projects along the way and that it should have been returned to taxpayers so they can have a voice regarding the money.

In 2014, a resolution was approved in which the council loaned $6 million of utility sale proceeds to the city for use within Grand Park. Patton, however, was visibly upset during the meeting and questioned the city’s chief of staff, Jeremy Lollar, over the matter.

“For God’s sake, pay the money back,” Patton said. “Pay the money back.”

Lollar said the council will consider a resolution when it is drafted but did not have a specific date of when that would occur. A previous resolution did not indicate a repayment structure regarding the loan, but a new resolution should identify those terms, Lollar said.

Patton said while he enjoys Grand Park, he stressed that the city “continues to spend more money than what things are worth.”

“We’re creating a system of perpetual debt to the taxpayer that we can never recoup,” Patton said.

The city is looking to possibly sell Grand Park or enter a public-private partnership to operate the complex, which is owned by the Westfield Redevelopment Commission. An independent committee is expected to review bids for Grand Park and then make a recommendation to the Westfield Redevelopment Commission and the city council.

However, Patton said he hasn’t made a determination as to whether the city should sell the 400-acre sports complex or enter into a public-private partnership.

“I’d have to think it through, and the taxpayers should not be left holding the bag for bad decisions,” Patton said. “The taxpayers should deserve a return on capital.”

Still, he urged action regarding the $6 million loan, saying he believes the city is dragging its feet.

“I’ve heard enough talking,” Patton said. “It’s time to put a pen on paper and get it done. They’ve been dragging their feet for years and they have no regard for the taxpayer because they think money will come back in next year and it doesn’t matter, no one really pays attention.”

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