A master plan for the scheduling and budgeting of the MAPS 3 projects still reserves $30 million for moving a power station in the planned Core to Shore development even though a majority of the city council said Tuesday they don't favor such expenditure.
Council members Gary Marrs, Pete White, Larry McAtee and Meg Salyer all disputed an account given by Mayor Mick Cornett that described council members as agreeing behind the scenes to set aside the money for buying the substation property at SW 4 and Robinson Avenue from Oklahoma Gas and Electric and paying for it to be relocated.
David Greenwell and Ed Shadid, who were sworn in to their first terms on the council last week, also voiced concerns about the expenditure.
Opponents of the substation purchase say the debate's outcome may determine whether the convention center is built to the scale promised to voters, or one about 80,000 square feet smaller.
Cornett told a joint meeting of the Oklahoma City Council and the MAPS 3 citizen's oversight board that consultants hired before the campaign indicated a new convention center would cost $250 million (the actual report by Convention Sports and Leisure suggested budgeting between $250 million and $400 million).
He said the $30 million was added to the convention center budget during closed-door discussions with the city council after learning a substation across from a planned central park, another MAPS 3 project, would be “very, very expensive” to move. Cornett pushed for the substation site to be chosen for the convention center, but consultants and a MAPS 3 citizen's committee since have deemed it unviable due to its distance from Bricktown and downtown hotels.
“The first number we got in was it might be as much as $75 million to move the substation,” Cornett said. “I asked for more info from staff and they responded it seemed as if it might cost $30 million to have the substation removed. … The thought was put $30 million into the substation (if the convention center was located in a different spot), and put whatever of that isn't needed back into the convention center.”
Councilman Marrs was the first to challenge Cornett on the matter, with fellow council members White, McAtee and Salyer all agreeing they never agreed to reserve $30 million for the substation.
No mention in records
Records kept by City Clerk Frances Kersey appear to back the council members' claims, showing no public discussion or votes held by the council about any funding for the substation. The council never voted for budgets for any of the projects either. Records show the only city document reflecting project budgets was published online by the public information office using information by Cornett's former aide, David Holt.
Mailings to voters by the private MAPS 3 campaign showed the same amounts listed by the public information office, including the $280 million for the convention center with no mention of reserving $30 million for the substation. News accounts at the time show no record of any discussion of the $30 million.
MAPS 3 Program Manager Eric Wenger said $30 million will remain reserved for the power plant, noting the council did not vote against the expenditure at Tuesday's meeting.
When asked about the disagreement with the council, Cornett continued to insist he had a private agreement with council members but admitted it was not mentioned during their open meetings or put into writing.
Cornett added he mentioned the $30 million expenditure in campaign speeches, but could not provide further specifics.
“It was difficult to get people to focus on it because it was seen as such a minor detail in the scheme of things,” Cornett said.