October 19, 2010 11:28 AM
When the Goodman Brothers donated millions of dollars to build Madison's first municipal swimming pool, they set a deadline for the community to pick a site. It worked beautifully. What had been a very contentious issue the previous time we tried to site a pool went relatively smoothly, and the pool got built on time. It has been highly successful ever since.
We're in a similar situation now with regard to the Overture Center. The donors who have offered to clear $28 million in debt on the building said back in June that offer is contingent upon coming to an agreement with the city by the end of this year to take ownership of the building. Some alders recently asked for a delay, but the donors continue to look for a decision by year's end.
I have some understanding of the positions of both sides, but on balance, I believe we should continue to push for a final decision this year, though a delay of a few weeks from the mid-November decision date might be appropriate.
Much of the information that the Council wanted has either been provided or will be soon:
• The Overture Ad Hoc Committee, led by Mark Bugher, has completed its work and endorsed city ownership with nonprofit operation. They concluded that the additional $2 million annually needed to run the facility can be raised privately.
• A review of the facility's condition and its projected capital needs has been completed.
• A staffing study has been done, laying out the options for the disposition of Overture's employees.
• An independent consultant will review the proposed operating model and report to the council and me in a few weeks.
So, most of the factual information is in. After we have the independent consultant's report in early November, it's time to move toward a decision.
Look, it's always the case that big decisions are made with imperfect knowledge, whether the decision is where to go to college, what city to settle in or who to marry. We try to ask good questions, get the best answers that are available, make some reasonable assumptions and then make up our minds. To wait for all the data to be in is to never make a decision at all and to never move forward with our own lives or with the life of a community.
We have been looking at this since the offer was announced in June. Six months should be enough to get this done.