The Richmond City Council on Monday signed off on a plan to refinance the loan the city took out to pay for the construction of the Washington Redskins training camp in 2013, guaranteeing that taxpayers will be on the hook for an additional $750,000 annually for the facility for the next 15 years.
The decision came as city administrators implored council members, considering a 60-day delay on the matter, to vote Monday. Delaying a decision would require Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney to include in his proposed budget to the council next week the full payoff amount — $8.6 million — on the facility, administrators said.
“This is a rock and a hard place,” said Council President Chris Hilbert. “This is a distasteful decision, and we’re going to have to make the best of our ugly options.”
The Stoney administration had asked for council approval to refinance the five-year, $10 million loan the city took out five years ago under then-Mayor Dwight C. Jones to cover construction costs of a training camp facility for the NFL team.
The council voted 6-3 to refinance the loan over the next 15 years and make payments of $750,000 out of the city’s general fund annually.
The annual payment will be on top of the $500,000 in cash, goods and services the city’s Economic Development Authority agreed to give the NFL team each year it practices at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center, located on West Leigh Street behind the Science Museum of Virginia.
Supporting the vote were Hilbert, Council Vice President Cynthia Newbille of the 7th District, 1st District Councilman Andreas Addison, 4th District Councilwoman Kristen Larson, 6th District Councilwoman Ellen Robertson and 9th District Councilman Michael Jones.
Councilman Parker Agelasto of the 5th District asked for a 60-day continuance on the recommendation from the administration. He argued that the council should explore other options before voting to refinance the loan, a prospect he said may be a necessary last resort but should not be the only option.
“The deal was rushed,” Agelasto said. “The solution should not be rushed as well.”
The administration told council members earlier this month that the city would default on its loan if the council did not sign off on refinancing by Sept. 1.
The city’s Economic Development Authority, which brokered the deal and oversees the training camp facility, has paid the Redskins $2.4 million in cash and credits for goods and services provided as well as sponsorships sold to local businesses on behalf of the team.
The EDA was expected to be able to pay back the full $10 million loan within five years based on projections presented to the former council by the Jones administration. To date, the authority has made $1.5 million in payments to the city toward the repayment of the $10 million loan — money officials found by drawing from the construction budgets for the city’s school system ($5.6 million) and the city jail ($4 million).
On Monday, the administration lobbied against delaying a vote on the matter, saying it would require it to write into the mayor’s proposed budget $8.6 million to cover the remaining balance on the loan if the council did not act. A provision in the city charter would limit the council’s ability to repurpose those funds if that scenario unfolded, the city attorney said.
The mayor is scheduled to present his budget to the council next week.
“We don’t have $8.6 million of operating funds in the FY 19 budget,” said Lenora Reid, the city’s deputy chief administrative officer for finance and administration.
Newbille echoed the administrative recommendation.
“This $8.6 million is a current liability for the council in this moment,” Newbille said.
The decision came as the city prepares to renegotiate its agreement beyond the initial eight-year term with the franchise by a July 1 deadline.
Separately, four council members have requested a top-to-bottom review of the training camp deal. Larson requested that City Auditor Lou Lassiter audit the deal late last month. Three other council members signed on to the request: Hilbert, Agelasto and Councilwoman Kimberly Gray of the 2nd District.
“There’s just so many moving pieces to this deal that make it the mess that it is,” Larson said in an interview.
Also Monday, the council voted to further expand the city’s bulk trash and brush collection service — funded by an 80-cent fee increase residents have paid since July — to include pickup of couches, mattresses and other upholstered items.
Gray introduced the measure, which will allow residents to put out the items curbside for collection on the same schedule as recycling as a part of the city’s new every-other-week bulk trash collection program.
Some on the council said they thought that’s what they were getting when they approved the 80-cent increase to the solid waste fee last spring to improve the service.
“There was never any indication that upholstered items wouldn’t be included,” Larson said. “I think we need to follow through with what we approved in the budget.”
Residents have paid the higher fee since July. The Department of Public Works did not roll out the program until December because it took several months to order and receive the knuckleboom trucks and hire the additional workers who the council signed off on.
Bobby Vincent Jr., the department’s director, told council members that the program was working as designed. Making changes at this point would confuse residents, he said. He also cast doubt on whether the department’s crews could keep up with the pickup schedule if the council approved the changes. “That’s what scares me,” he said.
Jones said the changes would lead to more people putting out couches and mattresses, ultimately reversing the progress he has seen in his district over the past year.
“To add this, all we’re going to end up with is more mattresses in the 9th District,” said Jones, who opposed the measure. “They will put it out on a day that isn’t the trash day and it will sit until trash day.”
The measure passed on a 5-4 vote. Supporting it were Gray, Larson, Hilbert, Addison and Agelasto.