in Houston, Texas
El Paso Times alerts public to potential waste -- $3.7 million of it for building owned by El Paso Times
Friday, Sep 14, 2012, 03:26PM CST
By Mark Lisheron

Lest you doubt the indispensable role of the press as guardian of the commonweal, we offer the El Paso Times warning that the city was on the verge of paying $3.7 million too much for a downtown building.

And lest you doubt why the entire newspaper business is in deep financial trouble, we point out that the building in question houses the El Paso Times.

The Times compounded its scoop by reporting today the City Council decided to wait just a bit before moving to acquire its building for $14 million.

The city had the 83,000-square-foot building and a parking lot across the 300 N. Campbell St. location appraised for $10.3 million in August. The appraisal report had not been read by the City Council and brokers for TVO North America, the real estate company handling the deal, until Thursday after being requested by a reporter for the Times.

In a bit of an understatement, City Manager Joyce Wilson told the Times there had been “some confusion” and that the appraisal figure had gotten all balled up with other numbers, including the $14 million offer.

The confusion may have something to do with the speed with which civic dominoes began toppling after the City Council offered $50 million in taxpayer money to build a stadium downtown as a lure for to a Triple A baseball franchise.

The plan, the secrecy surrounding elements of it and the lack of public input is quite unpopular with certain constituencies in El Paso, including the hotel industry.

While the negotiations to bring the Tucson Padres east continued, the Council voted to raze City Hall to make room for the ballpark and prepares to vote this Tuesday on an $83 million bond package pay for everything, including the Times building.

Where to put all those displaced city employees cannot be determined until the Council decides on what it is willing to ask taxpayers to pay for the Times building. "There is no way we would ever consider buying anything for $4 million more than its appraisal," City Rep. Michiel Noe told the Times. “If it is $4 million more, then hell no.”

The story does not say whether or not the Times is willing to sell its building for $3.7 million less than it thought would be offered.

Nor does the story say whether a desk will be made available in the Times’ new headquarters for the reporter who made the much lower offer possible.

Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of El Paso Times front page via Newseum.

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