I was hoping that after a highly contested primary election for Mayor, Mount Vernon City leaders could come together in unity to move the City forward. So, it is baffling to me that, after sixteen years as Mayor of Mount Vernon, Ernest Davis would not leave gracefully but instead spends the waning days of his administration undermining the incoming administration and placing obstacles in the way of Mount Vernon’s residents. Recently, Davis had tons of dirt dumped on the space dedicated for soccer and accessory fields and open-space for picnic areas reserved for children and families. The trucks delivering the dirt had out-of-state license plates and no decals identifying which company was delivering the soil, which raises questions about testing procedures and the chain-of-custody if the soil is contaminated at any level. As the County Legislator, who had the County committed $9.7 million under its Legacy Program for Memorial Field, I could not remain silent while these recent developments jeopardize the development of Memorial Field.
The purpose of Legacy funding is to preserve ball fields and open space for recreational activities, not for development of private “for profit” projects like Davis’ tennis courts. The dumping of tons of dirt on the open-space designed for ball fields under the City’s agreement with the County violate that agreement. Article II, Section 2 of the Inter-Municipal Agreement states that all work on Memorial Field must conform to the plans and specifications prepared by the City and review and approval by the County, and that the City cannot deviate from the approved plans and specifications without prior written consent of the Commissioner of Parks, Recreation and Conservation. Those plans and specifications were approved in 2010 based on the original design for the new facility. The Agreement also says that the City’s compliance with those plans and specifications is a critical element to the Agreement. Mayor Davis’ dumping of tons of dirt on open-space so that he could build more tennis courts is not in compliance with the plans and specifications and the County Commissioner of Parks gave no prior written approval. The County would not approve soil being dumped on parkland without careful testing procedures and supervision to ensure the soil is not contaminated.
Mayor Davis blames everyone for his failures rather than taking responsibility for his actions. He falsely accuses me of stalling county funds for Memorial Field. However, the Mayor had 28 years to change the conditions at Memorial Field – 16 years as Mayor and 12 years as County Legislator but, after all those years, he leaves the facility as a pile of rubble.
The County funds are stalled because of the lack of accountability for $3.4 million advanced by the County; The mismanagement and waste of the County money; Davis’ diversion of $2.2 million of proceeds from City’s bonds dedicated for Memorial Field; and flawed decisions made by Mayor Davis to restore the decayed stadium structure resulting in $5 million additional costs to the project – money the City does not have.
Of the $3.4 million advanced by the County to the City, $1.3 million was for the cost of designing the new facility and $2.1 million was for demolition of the existing decayed stadium and clearing and preparing the site for installation of the new track and ball fields. When Mayor Davis came back into office in 2012, he threw out the $1.3 million design and, without authorization, used County money to develop his own plans. The bids for demolition of the existing stadium and clearing and preparing of the field came in at $1.6 million. Davis stopped the contractor from demolishing the stadium and clearing the field but provided documents claiming that he spent $1.4 million of the County money for stadium demolition and site preparation work. Anyone could see that stadium was not demolished and the site was not cleared or prepared.
Based on the agreement between the City and the County, the City borrowed $2.25 million (sold 3 bonds). Here is the breakdown: $750 thousand for Memorial Field Entrance; $750 thousand for Memorial Field Parking; $750 thousand for Memorial Field New Stadium. Mayor Davis diverted these funds from Memorial Field and used them to build tennis courts, which he privatized. A private company will now reap the benefits of Mount Vernon taxpayer’s investment. This diversion could cause problems for the City with the IRS.
Again, the reasons why more County money was not released to the Davis administration were because of lack of accountability for public funds and its failure to comply with legal agreements.
Legislator Lyndon Williams