Sunday, August 27, 2006

Oman: Taxpayers to Pay for Earthpark's Operation

David Oman's explanation of the rain forest's financing. has taxpayers paying for operations as well as construction.

It was reported by RADIO IOWA in a piece dated July 30 that was only just brought to my attention. O. Kay Henderson, "Earthpark Fundraising So Far: $75 million," RADIO IOWA, July 30, 2006.

Referring to it as "a $155 million . . . environmental education center" (rather than the former $180 million project that was still on the Iowa Child Foundation Web site when I last looked), he apparently told RADIO IOWA that he has "raised about two-thirds of the money." The story follows this immediately with an explanation of where "that $75 million comes from."

It's been awhile since I was taught fractions in grade school, but unless I've forgotten more than I think I have, 2/3rds of $155 million would be more like $103 million and change than $75 million.

OK, let's say it's $75 million and that it "comes from two sources." What are they?

"One is a $50 million federal grant."

"A $50 million federal grant"? That $50 million is no longer a "grant." It is a "matching grant" -- and an opportunity that will expire in a little over a year. Until Oman can match it, he doesn't have it. If and when he can match it he will then have $100 million of what he's now calling a $155 million project -- which is 2/3rds.

The other $25 million of this mythical $75 million -- that somehow becomes 2/3rds of $155 million -- comes from Oman's allegation that "both communities [Pella and Riverside have] raised the $25 million 'local match.'" But they haven't. We've seen no numbers from Pella. And the numbers from Riverside don't add up -- certainly not to $25 million. Moreover, much of the Riverside money is pledged over a 10-year period; it's not now, and won't be soon, "in hand."

Oman says "the state might" provide up to $20 million. There's no basis I know of for that statement. Meanwhile, it's hard to put "might" in the bank.

But the real shocker comes in the next couple of sentences:

"Oman's also suggesting taxpayers might not only be asked to bankroll, up-front, much of the construction, but on-going operations of the Earthpark as well because Oman contends this will be a huge attraction to bring tourists into Iowa. 'So there is a rightful role for some public money as well as private money to bring it off,' Oman says."

This is the first time, so far as I know, that Oman has veered from his assertions that tourism will be sufficient to pay all of the operating costs, and that no host city need be concerned about having to assume any of the ongoing operating costs.

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