This is the text of an email that I received 30 September 2022.
by Max Grossman
THE OPERATING DEFICIT OF THE FOUR WATER PARKS IS $5.6 MILLION SO FAR!
I recently reported that the City’s four waterparks lost $1,335,420 during the summer 2021 season and that they are projected to lose $3,394,546 during the summer 2022 season, but that these figures do not include utilities.
Well, today I received the results of an open records request I filed with the City and I can now confirm that the City spent $437,738 on gas, electricity and water for the waterparks during the 2021 calendar year (presumably beginning with the opening of the first water park on May 29 of that year) and $469,698 from January 1, 2022 through four days ago.
Thus, from May 29, 2021 through September 26, 2022 (less than 16 months) the City spent $907,436 on utilities for the four waterparks.
Factoring in the operating deficits cited above, this means they lost at least $1,773,158 in 2021 and $3,864,244 in 2022, for a total estimated loss so far of $5,637,402!
THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE FOUR WATERPARKS WAS $16,995,548 OVER BUDGET
The City of El Paso Budget Book for FY 2020-2021 includes a detailed budget for the waterparks on pages 377, 381, 398 and 408.
There we learn that $55,164,082 from the 2012 Quality of Life Bond were spent on their construction.
But then the City Council voted to supplement that cost, without voter approval, with $16,699,712 from certificates of obligation and $295,836 from “outside sources,” for a total cost overrun of $16,995,548, or 31%.
REP. ISABEL SALCIDO OWNS THIS BOONDOOGLE
The COs that paid for these cost overruns were authorized in 2017, 2018, and 2019 by City Council.
Rep. Isabel Salcido of District 5 is the only incumbent running for reelection to City Council who voted for COs to supplement the water parks, on November 12, 2019. And now she is trying to convince her constituents that she is a fiscal conservative, after all her votes for deficit spending and high taxation!
ARE PUBLIC AMENTIES SUPPOSED TO BE PROFITABLE?
One journalist friend of mine recently told me that public amenities are not supposed to be profitable. Rep. Svarzbein states this every time he is questioned about his insolvent trolleys.
But the voters were not told that the water parks would cost more than $72 million to build and that there would be an average operating loss of $2.8 million per year; nor were they told that the general admission price would be $12 per person, and that it would be raised to $15. With bond interest included, the water parks will cost over $100,000,000!
So let’s look at this like mature adults.
By any standard, the cost to the taxpayers for the four water parks is staggering and the operating losses are catastrophic.
The cost overrun of this boondoggle alone is equal to the amount of money the City would have needed to prevent their latest property tax hike!
It’s business as usual in Tommyland.
And, the reality is that, no matter what these people say, we really cannot afford this kind of waste! And, btw, lest we forget, take a look at our streets! They still need repaving. What worries me about this is that it has been so long since we’ve seen repaving, I wonder if there is any company out there capable of doing a good job? It seems to me that it wasn’t really that long ago that parts of Montwood were repaved, and that stree is already in bad shape again!
Interesting to note that the street leading up from Gateway South at Hercules. (Olympic, Titanic, Volcanic, and Atlas) have been repaved in the last 3 months. Yet Hercules, a main drag, only had tar put in the cracks a year ago. The city’s roads department is being grossly mishandled and isn’t doing its job.
The police aren’t doing much either though I understand that’s because they’re understaffed. Every evening, Magnetic at Hercules sounds like a racetrack with motorcylces and cars revving their engines and laying rubber. Heck, put a couple of cars along that stretch, on 54 north from Pershing, and on Spur 601 for about 6 months and we could reduce our debt considerably. We’re in a 3rd world city.
If I were a kid here where the summers are long and hot I would be grateful for waterparks. But I sure could not afford $12 admission! Where I’m from we would swim in Lake Michigan for free on the Wisconsin side where the water was rarely warmer than 62 degrees. The small mill town did have a public swimming pool open June thru August and the admission, I think, was a dime.
Was it supposed to be a profit center? My grandkids love those parks. Isn’t that what it’s supposed to be about? And this complaint from the guy who cost the city millions in a legal battle that will “preserve” an eyesore for years to come in an area near downtown.
The City’s strategic plan calls for “alternate sources of income”. The money that’s spent at the water parks could be supporting local businesses.
Imagine you’re a working class stiff from the lower valley with four kids. If they’re taller than 4 feet, admission is $15. If they’re shorter, it’s $12. If you and your wife want to go, and get pizza and chicken sandwiches, that’s closing in on a $150.
Not to mention the $72 million that it cost to build them. We’ll be paying that till the bonds mature.
The City weaponized the Quality of Life bond projects in an act of class warfare. I guess I can tell which side you’re on.
You are asking all of El Paso to subsidize your grandkids’ recreation. Why don’t you take some personal responsibility and take them to the beach, instead?
Subsidize children? You mean like schools, parks and libraries? Yes, that is a function of government. Personal responsibility? You mean like paying taxes and grandkids admissions to the water parks? Yup, done?
Now water parks are a government function? Why don’t you chip in the whole $72 million?
Every homeowner in El Paso is subsidizing your grandchildren’s water park visits. Schools, parks, and libraries don’t cost $15 bucks a day to enter. You probably think you’re a capitalist, when really you’re on the City’s dole.
You should sponsor Ruben S. Robles day at the water parks, and pick up everyone’s tab.
How about those of us not having children in school getting a break. And NO, water parks are not a government function. We have a perfectly good water park in Anthony and the city’s water parks are direct competition.
I mentioned this back when Tommy Gonzalez was floating the idea of the water parks and the “proposed” menu. I said it then, and I’ll say it again. The Southwest and the West are all losing water. The Great Salt Lake will be totally gone within 5 years. Moab is seeing a decrease in water, and Texas basically, is in a drought. In fact, it rained 11 inches last year while the average rainfall is 33 inches. And, where is the water going to come from for El Paso? The Rio Grande dried up around the Albuquerque area last year, the first time in 40 years. And, its going to get worse. Another hare brained scheme for Gonzalez. A guy who has never held a job in a business or owned a business. Military and City Management using other people’s money is nowhere near owning a business. And, I am still puzzled why the City has not revealed the cost of utilities—especially water for these money losing parks.
I need to set a few things straight in your piece Devin. Utah had record snowfall (over 20 feet) and the Great Salt Lake is filling up. Our average rainfall in El Paso is 8-9 inches. Other than that, you’re correct, we’re using up our groundwater faster than it can be replaced.
By the way, from what I understand, the parks use recycled grey water.
Oops…my bad. I see how you got the City to open up the books as to how much utilities have cost. I am there for Ruben S. Robles day…can’t wait to eat a $12 hot dog. Forget about Chico’s!!!!
When I grew up, we ran through the sprinklers and used Slip and Slides. We could have bought every kid in town one. We also had neighborhood pools and the YMCA. We had fun and stayed cool. I can’t understand why the city closed the neighborhood pools not that many years ago in order to save money, then did an about face and spent 72 million dollars on water parks that are miles from my neighborhood and too far to walk to. Entertainment and recreation are not the responsibility of the city. If they are, then maybe the city should consider opening a movie theater or a micro brewery. WTH.