Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Breaking: The Ogden Ice Tower Project is X'd!

Ogden City throws in the towel, and admits it will have to return $200 K in RAMP funds

We hereby pronounce Godfrey's Ice Tower Project D.O.A. We spoke with Weber County Information Officer Mike Caldwell today. Mike tells us the original $200 K RAMP grant, which was issued and "conditionally" funded to Ogden City in 2007, will be returned from Ogden City, per a letter from Ogden City CAO Godfrey apologist John Patterson, who admits the project is a "no go."After TWO RAMP extensions, this ridiculous project finally gets mercifully X'd.

Boss Godfrey and his pal Jeff Lowe couldn't raise the matching funds to make the project work. Imagine that. Nobody was willing to invest a dime of private money into this knuckleheaded project. Go figure.

Boss Godfrey's administration is therefor turning back these funds to otherwise-worthy and legitimate RAMP projects.

Once again, "the visionary mayor" reluctantly succumbs to real world economic reality.

Will the "visionary*" little mayoral twit learn any lessons from this? We doubt it.

And so what say our gentle readers about all this?

*Suffers hallucinations AND delusions of grandeur
Update 1/15/09 10:30 a.m. MT: The Std-Ex has its own version of this story on the "Top of Weber" page today. Undaunted by the above-reported setback, the Godfrey administration keeps a stiff upper lip and wears a VERY brave face, now that this painfully embarrassing cat's been let out of the bag:
Ice tower goes back to designers
Too funny.

26 comments:

althepal said...

Does this signal sanity in Ogden City government?

Not yet.

Not until Boss Godfrey has been tarred, feathered, and ridden out of town on a rail.

dan s. said...

I originally thought the ice tower was a reasonable idea. That was when it was for winter only, located in one of Ogden's parks. And that was before I thought about what it would cost to operate the thing.

But under our mayor's direction, the project grew into something that couldn't possibly have worked, financially. In trying to raise the money to build it, the city was effectively promising donors (such as RAMP) that we would keep it running for years into the future. Once the novelty wore off and the private donations dried up, the funding would have had to come almost entirely from taxpayers.

So I'm glad it hasn't come to that.

Of course, like so many other schemes in this town, the ice tower will undoubtedly have multiple lives and come back soon in one form or another. Let's hope it goes back to being a winter-only private venture, with no city role other than providing some space in a park.

Meanwhile, the real lesson here is that when the Godfrey administration acts like something is a done deal, they're flat-out lying.

Bill C. said...

I noticed that the flo- rider is now officially out of commision, This due to using inadequate materials and the rush to get open. My question now is how much is this costing and will it be done right this time?
Another fine example of private public partnership.
Oh, and does the City have to reduce the lease until it's up and running again?

Curmudgeon said...

Let's give a nod here, too, to the Council members who made the latest city contribution earmarked [I believe it was $100K, half what was asked for] contingent on the private fund-raising being completed before the money would be ponied up. A prudent precaution, as it turned out, and one that worked to the city's advantage in the end.

I agree with much Dan S. wrote above, but not with the post's final word: when a city administration, even this one, expresses confidence that fund-raising for a particular project can and will be successful, and it turns out the optimism was misplaced, I'd be hesitant to brand the initial optimism as "flat-out lying." Wrong, certainly. Unjustified. Excessive. Pollyanna-ish. Unrealistic. But I don't think boosterism carrying away the rhetoric of an administration necessarily deserves being branded "flat-out lying."

We can hope from this point on the administration grounds its plans more solidly in pragmatism, and sets its sights on less grandiose but more achievable ends. So many of the Grand Vision projects have flopped or seem to be on hold: the gondola/Tyolean Village Malan's fantasy; the indoor water park and attached four star Junction hotel; the ice tower; the predicted condo towers developments at The Junction; the River Project [which is moving at the rate of molasses on a cold day]. Lowering the administration's sights a bit, and selecting projects that can successfully be brought to completion would do more for the city... and the mayor... than another round of much-ballyhooed pie-in-the-sky projects that never get past the press-conference announcement stage. Sometimes... even for cities... less is more.

dan s. said...

Curm: Good point about the city council. Actually I thought they were quite savvy to say "yes" in the way they did. If they had said "no", the mayor would have had a convenient scapegoat when the project collapsed (as he did with the Windsor).

You're welcome to disagree, of course, over the term "flat-out lying". But I think I'll stick with it. In my book, when you work really hard to convince yourself of a lie, to the point where you might even temporarily believe it when you say it out loud, it's still a lie.

JOHN SPENCER said...

Ogden City will have to disgorge $200 grand to RAMP? Well I guess we can kiss snow removal goodbye for the rest of the winter. I hope you all have a 4W-Drive vehicle like me. You're definitely going to need it.

Curmudgeon said...

John Spenser:

The RAMP funds did not, I think, go into the general budget. They were encumbered for the Ice Tower project alone, so giving them back should not affect in any way the city's regular operating budget.

ozboy said...

If you think the ice tower was a doozy just wait till ya get a load of the new, and so far secret, volcano attraction Little Lord Godfrey has in store for us. It will be modeled after Bobbie Gieger and will be scheduled to erupt hourly - just like its inspiration.

disgusted said...

fyi
the city has already spend some $53,379 on the ice climbing wall per page 60 of the 2008 annual report folks. some of those funds may indeed need to be returned to ramp.
im sure too that those dollars do not count the salary of the director of the ice tower nor the furnishings and office space that is leased on 25th steet in the same building as the jason restaurant for the ice tower operations.
john spencer you may be right as to where some of your snow plow money has gone.

dan s. said...

disgusted:

Thanks for the tip. For those who don't want to download the whole 4.7 MB file, here's a little context from page 60:

"The City has active construction projects as of June 30, 2008. At year-end the City's commitments with contractors are as follows:"

There follows a table with 14 entries, of which "Ice Climbing Tower" is one. The numbers for this entry are:

Commitment: $200,000
Expended @ 6/30/08: $53,379
Remaining Commitment: $146,621

So now the question is what exactly this means. To whom was this "commitment" made? Does the commitment remain, even without the RAMP grant? What was the source of the money already spent, given that the RAMP money could not be spent on design work or other preliminaries--only on actual construction? Was Ogden Climbing Parks (Jeff Lowe's nonprofit) a recipient of this money, or a source from which the money was reimbursed, or neither?

So many questions. So few answers.

Curmudgeon said...

Dan:

All good questions, especially in re: the "Expended" figure. Could that be the money spent on buying the used ice tower? Was that a city purchase? [And wasn't it bought before the RAMP grant came through?] Not sure. Be nice to have the numbers explained by some authoritative source. The Council maybe?

Curmudgeon said...

Hat's off to Dan S. who wrote above: "Of course, like so many other schemes in this town, the ice tower will undoubtedly have multiple lives and come back soon in one form or another."

Just found this story about the tower on the SE homepage. From the story:

OGDEN -- City officials plan this week to return $200,000 in Weber County RAMP tax funds that were to be used for construction of an ice-climbing tower but insist the controversial project isn't dead....

However, that doesn't mean plans for the ice tower at the corner of 25th Street and Kiesel Avenue have been abandoned. The ice tower will be reconfigured to include a geothermal component that would cool and heat the adjacent Key Bank and MarketStar buildings, Patterson said.

The geothermal system should make the tower more cost effective and environmentally friendly, he said, adding the city will likely apply for $400,000 in RAMP funds in 2010.


You nailed it, Dan. Nailed it cold.

Oh, by the way, according to the story, the RAMP grant and City Council 100K contingent grant was the only money the city raised to build the tower. City claims one of those oft-cited but rarely appearing "private" funders promised 200K but didn't deliver.

And the beat goes on....

disgusted said...

two comments

if the sponsors of this project think $2,000,000 dollars was hard to raise wait until they try to cost out a designed heating-cooling system for the adjacent building and ice tower. the new design may add another million dollars to the cost but hey its only ogden residents money. what they dont say is that it also adds another layer of complexity that adds risk to the project and its viability. this might also explain why the city gave away a $ 4,000,000 parking facility to the existing building owner for nothing. now he will feel obligated to play ball. but hey no big deal that was only ogden resident money.

per the article in the paper "the city council agreed last year to a $100,000 one-time allocation for construction of the tower but stipulated that the money could not be released until all other necessary funding was in place, meaning the city's contribution would have been the last piece of the funding." i point out the last piece of funding. i guess the city administration should now say oops to the people of ogden with the revelation that the city jumped the gun and spent money before it should of. also not shown is the money the city is spending and will continue to spend on keeping this idea alive. the directors salary and his office expenses will be an on going cost to the residents. i guess you say oops to that too.
now you know why i use the blogger name that i use.

dReWmEiStEr said...

I, like many here, were horrified that the council voted to give a single dime to the Frozen Phallus Palace. I must now admit it now appears to be a wise decision for the council to risk the $100,000 contingent upon Godfrey and his minions actually raising the rest of the goddamned money themselves.

Why the city is continuing to spend a single dime on this to "keep the idea alive" is beyond me, however. Sometimes you just have to pull the plug on what is clearly a vegetative blunder. Instead, Godfrey and Patterson want to make it even more ridiculously complicated. "Hmm.. let's take a clearly retarded idea, and make it a clearly and completely fucking retarded idea! We can even waste another half-mil on it! Who cares, it's not our money.."

Astonishing.

Curious 1 said...

The city council needs an audit of the mayors office and see how taxpayers funds are being spent. An independent audit to assure the citizens that no under the table deals are being made. The mayors budget needs to be cut since some really bad decisions have costs us big bucks.

Before we loose any more city services the administration should get rid of a few suits and dirtectors in city hall. An audit to make sure every employee is earning their wages.

what it will costs us said...

Reader comment promoted to front page

Curmudgeon said...

Disgusted:

I suspect the project, in any form, is dead as a doornail. The Mayor's bravado via Paterson is, I suspect, just a sad reflex aimed at pretending that no bad decisions were made and that this is merely a momentary glitch. [Remember when we were told the five star hotel and indoor water park was only to be temporarily delayed while the city located 250 parking places it had misplaced? Same thing.]

Having been left with egg on their chins, those who disperse RAMP funds in Weber County are, I think, very unlikely to double down on their bet if Mayor Godfrey returns to ask for $400K next time round. It's over for the downtown tower.

monotreme said...

I find it hilarious (in a bitter, angry sort of way, not in a truly humorous way) that the Fortress of Mayoral Ego has now turned into a Fortress of Mayoral Ego and Freudian Volcano.

Geothermal? No problems there, really solid technology that can be easily applied to Downtown Ogden. Lots of geothermal features hereabouts. Heck, the Major Oil Companies have had secret plans for geothermal plants in the middle of major American cities for YEARS.

I think the financial crisis has deepened the chasm between reality and what the Mayor thinks. Maybe we can harness the geothermal energy from the bottom of that trough. It goes all the way through the crust.

ozboy said...

Doesn't "geothermal energy" usually refer to extracting energy from hot spots near the earth surface? Something like they are currently proposing for the warm springs area in the north end of Salt Lake City. Is there any surface, or near surface, hot spots in down town Ogden?

Maybe Patterson thinks they can power this ice tower and adjacent building with all the hot air coming out of the collective mouths and fevered brains of the Lil Lord and his wild and crazy Godfreyite movement? Maybe he thinks they can convert all the wasted energy that comes out of volcano Bobby's explosive head?

OgdenLover said...

I have a dream. That the State Legislature passes a law permitting recall elections and that they do it this week.

I hope those who voted for Godfrey remember this the next time we have an election and vote with their brains instead of their jerking knees. Especially the 452 whose votes allowed him to win.

What will it cost us said...

So where does the new vison start with the velodrome for elite bicyclist wearing Descente clothes.

Maybe more questions and real data will come forth or demanded from the city council. The city council needs more cajones and stand up to the mayor for the taxpayers sake. How much more can we afford to piss away while city services suffer?

disgusted said...

ozboy

actually there are geothermal heat pumps systems that dont need to be placed on top of a hot spot. simply put the soil is a constant 50-55 degrees once you get about 5 feet down. the heat pumps recover the heat difference betweeen that temperature and the ambient temperature. in the winter the systems pull heat out of the ground and in the summer they exhaust heat back into the ground through the use of pipe loops placed in the ground that are used to collect or discharge the heat. these loops can be laid horizontally if you have a big enough foot print which the current site does not have or they can be placed in vertical holes drilled 300 to 500 feet deep. for a project this big they would need to drill and they would need to drill lots of expensive holes.
the energy savings on these systems is impressive but the technology is not cheap. at least not when you realize that the ice tower refrigeration costs were imho grossly under estimated and the real number would require a very large geothermal system especially if it were to be tied into the buildings needs as well.

ozboy said...

Disgusted

I am familiar with the heat pump technology, I just never heard of it referred to as geothermal. Geothermal is generally used to describe hot spot energy acquisition like that being done around here by a company called Razer (I believe).

You're right, heat pump systems are very expensive in the front end but very economical on an ongoing basis. I have been considering it myself but don't know if I'm up to digging that deep of a hole!

dan s. said...

oz,

It's quite common to use the word "geothermal" to describe a heat pump that exchanges heat ("therm") with the ground ("geo") rather than the air.

I'd be very interested to see more specifics on the system that's being discussed for the ice tower. I've heard that a reputable consultant is involved, but I remain skeptical about the feasibility when cost is taken into account.

ozboy said...

Dan

Makes sense for sure, I guess I ought to start paying more attention!

Maybe the naybobs in the Godfreyite administration are thinking of using the rumored tunnels under two bit street to run the heat exchange pipes? That would save them a whole lot of drilling which is a big part of the front end costs of this technology.

lionel said...

How about using Godfrey and the Geiger's fevered little brains as heat sources? We could save millions.

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