I'll Trade You a Health Department for an Arena ...



The City Council last night approved the plan that will give the city sole ownership of the Pyramid and leave the county responsible for the health department.

The city will pay the county a total sum of $8.5 million. The bulk of that money — $5 million — is a one-time payment for the health department. $3.5 million buys the empty, aging arena.

By taking control of the Pyramid, the city hopes to streamline the Bass Pro deal.

Councilman Reid Hedgepeth said he thought if the city and the county were co-owners of the Pyramid "nothing will ever happen with this building."

"I've been talking to appraisers about what the dirt is actually worth," he said. "The city owns 37 acres ... In today's economy, the conservative number is it's worth $8 a foot. That land is worth $13 million."

He continued, saying if it cost $5.5 million to demolish the building — with $1 million coming in from the salvage — "if we had to tear it down, we've got a net asset worth $8.5 million."

The maintenance on the empty Pyramid is about $500,000 annually, a cost the county and city have typically split. This deal alleviates the county's responsibility for that but puts the health department — another service the city and county currently share — fully under the county's budget.

Under the plan, there is a clause that could force the city to pay an additional $2 million to the health department in 2011, but only if all the other suburban municipalities help fund the health department. At least one has already said that won't happen.

Several councilmembers wanted more time to consider the proposal.

"It's a huge issue, whether to take on the Pyramid," said councilman Jim Strickland. "We were asked to look at the resolution and make up our minds and vote in about three hours."

But with both the county and city budget changed by this deal, the council went ahead and approved it.

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