The Coastal Post - September, 1996

Appeal And COPS Define Buck Plan Now

BY JOAN REUTINGER

An appeal has been filed on the Buck Center plan because the judge only referred to the City of Novato vote which passed the plan, and ignored the countywide vote which failed.

But the fact that the City of Novato is thinking of applying for $60 million in Certificates of Participation (COPS) has opponents of the Buck center all aflutter. COPS are usually reserved for a city's much-needed superstructure, or buildings.

"The question is why are they doing this?" said Ken Masterton, a long-time opponent of the project and formerly the mastermind against the "No" vote. "Can't they find any other method of financing the $100 million project? It would seem logical to go to a bank, or state financing. It must be because they can't get a loan otherwise."

The big question now would be if the Buck Center for Research on Aging folds, would the City of Novato be responsible for the $60 million dollar loan?

According to Assistant City Manger Rick Hill, the proposal will be drafted so it leaves the city free from liability. But many people doubt that, including Marin's auditor-controller Richard Arrow, who wrote a warning letter to Novato city councilman Michael DiGiorgio when he asked Arrow for advice.

Arrow warned, "...I believe a government agency could experience damage to its future financial reputation by way of increased interest costs in other debt issues and (or) encounter limited financial market access in future financing" (if they applied for COPS again). He also warned that they could be sued, and suggested the city hire a fiscal consultant.

DiGiorgio said the fact was that the City of Novato had hired a fiscal consultant before Arrow's letter was received. The city has also hired an attorney to look into the legal aspects of the matter. The attorney's costs and the fiscal consultant fees will be covered by the Buck Center. Is this the way the Center spends the money left to it by Beryl Buck? That was certainly not her intent.

And whatever happened to the regulation the City of Novato made that if it spends over a million, they would have to have a vote; conveniently forgotten, no doubt.

The latest report is that the City Council of Novato adjourned without considering the Buck Center's application for COPS. Maybe the Buck Center withdrew, who knows! Although construction has commended on the site, it's mostly earth moving. No buildings as yet. As Ken Masterton says, "It's a speculative adventure."