Iris Dumuk, Special to the Sun
Sunday, May 27, 2012 | 2 a.m.
A county commissioner derisively noted last week that government thinks it is “saving” money when it pays less for something than was expected. For example, if a union asks for 7 percent pay raises but only gets 4 percent, government likes to say it “saved” 3 percent.
But union members still got a 4 percent raise.
You heard hints of that same mental twisting last week when county commissioners talked about Springs Preserve, the 5-year-old, $235 million architectural ode to the well-springs that slaked the thirst of the valley’s earliest visitors. Well, it was said, the Springs Preserve subsidy is down to between $4 million and $6 million, a far cry from the $8 million or so it was a few years ago. (The preserve was sold, in part, with cheerleaders who said it would pay for itself. Its annual costs include about $11 million per year to pay off a $180 million bond.)
So for the sake of argument, let’s say the Springs Preserve is “saving” money.
Why, then, is it going to add another expense?
What are you talking about?
Haven’t you heard yet about the train? The cost isn’t nailed down, but the Las Vegas Valley Water District will spend what one commissioner estimated to be a few hundred thousand dollars to purchase a trackless train on rubber wheels that will pull passengers on its cars through the 180-acre preserve, regaling riders with the story of Las Vegas’ watery birthplace. Ticket costs are expected to be minimal, but more accurate dollar figures will be known after the district puts out a request for proposals and sees what is out there.
But right now, the trackless train is not being looked at skeptically, the way one might expect after three years of relentless economic hardship?
The expectation is for the train to be paid off in about four years from revenue derived from sponsorships and ticket fees. After annual maintenance, the rest, as they say, will be gravy.
Gravy that is expected to help the Las Vegas Valley Water District, which just jacked up water rates like all the other water districts?
You just had to spoil a happy story. Let’s think positively and hope that, for once, projections that a public development will pay for itself — remember the monorail? — come true.
The first County Commission meeting in June should hold one item of interest because of its potential to directly affect those gigantic shrink-wrapped advertisements pasted to the sides of buildings. You’ve seen them over several stories on the side of the Flamingo to advertise the “Donny and Marie” show.
Some off-Strip hotels facing the Las Vegas Convention Center want to paste the supergraphics to the sides of their hotels because, well, it’s good money. For a week of display, county officials say, a hotel could pull in well over $100,000.
Is there a problem with this?
There are potential problems. Ever seen the gigantic but empty Fontainebleau resort? Its multibillion-dollar exterior would be prime real estate for a supergraphic. But because the First Amendment would prevent the restriction of most advertising messages, one county official said, imagine the side of that empty hulk plastered with an advertisement for, say, condoms.
And have you seen all the ads for movies and other things plastered on the sides of buildings in Los Angeles? It isn’t always the most aesthetically pleasing sight.
What does the county want to do?
Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani has been working with resorts and businesses to craft an ordinance that would keep the supergraphics from popping up willy-nilly all over the valley.
“To me, it comes down to visual clutter,” said Giunchigliani (pronounced june-killy-ON-knee). “They should serve a purpose, and I don’t like all the signs all over.”
An ordinance proposed in March defined “supergraphics” as signs “displayed during a convention (that is) held at an approved convention facility.” An “approved convention center” has to be one that is 1.5 million square feet or more. The only place supergraphics could be displayed is basically in an area that includes the Strip from Sahara south to Russell and stretches a bit east and west to areas that include the Convention Center.
The graphics also could not be displayed on buildings fewer than 10 stories tall, a building could not use its walls for advertising more than 10 times per year, and the graphics could not be put up more than two days before or after a convention.
Permit fees for the signs would be $100 plus 10 cents per square foot of sign area.
The ordinance would be reviewed in a year to see how it is working.
But so far a public hearing hasn’t been held. Why not?
Giunchigliani said tweaks and bugs needed to be worked out.