EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — As the City of El Paso looks for ways to recover from its economic shortfall due to the coronavirus outbreak, some City Representatives called to reconsider the proposed Downtown Arena project, and instead renovate the Abraham Chavez Theatre.
The proposed Multi-Purpose Center (MPC) in Downtown El Paso is currently on hold, but two city council members want to try and bring other options to the table to reduce the amount of money it’s costing the city, and ultimately taxpayers.
“This is a project that is under budget. Whether it was from the decisions of previous councils or staff, it is under budget,” City Rep. Alexsandra Annello said.
El Paso City Reps. Annello and Claudia Rodriguez, proposing to renovate the Abraham Chavez Theatre with funds from the 2012 Quality of Life bond meant for a proposed MPC, also known as the proposed arena in the Duranguito neighborhood.
“We’re not going to do that. We’ve already stated that. If the comments are ‘I’m anti-MPC’, I mean we’ve had that plenty of times too. I’m not sure this is a fruitful use of time,” Mayor Dee Margo stated.
City staff have put off various projects, including the proposed Downtown arena and said there is currently no authorization to use taxpayer funds to advance many projects.
“I think it is a really important conversation that we have right now because deferment just means that we’re going to cover this cost and some point and it’s going to be at the expense of other important projects in our community,” Annello said.
Some El Pasoans spoke on the issue during public comment during the special city council meeting, including Max Grossman, the local historian who spearheaded the ongoing legal battle to save the Duranguito neighborhood from demolition.
”Removing the arena from the list of Quality of Life Bond projects would instantly remove all the litigation, significantly reduce future debt, reserve precious cultural assets for prosperity, and help preserve the city’s credit rating,” Grossman said.
The City said they’d spent almost $2 million in litigation costs on this project alone, the Mayor explaining some of that money has come from taxpayers, “That litigation expense has come out of our general budget, not out of any bond funds.”
As the City prioritizes public safety and streets during the coronavirus pandemic, the City Engineer Sam Rodriguez clarified this, “This project is really deferred until further notice. We are not authorized to spend any money on this project. We also different the Mexican American Cultural project, and we’re reviewing the children’s museum private contractual obligations.”
Rodriguez also said as of now, City Staff does not recommend these actions to the council. Any additional action would need to happen in the future.