I’ve had a few calls and some e-mail about my column this morning on Westdale Mall and future decisions on where government will set up shop in this town, post-flood. Every reader who has contacted me likes the current Westdale set up, allowing them to conduct county business in one convenient place. They hope it’s a permanent deal.
As I said this morning, if you like it, you’d better speak up, because local leaders who will be making the final call don’t see a future at Westdale.
County Supervisor Linda Langston, who was at The Gazette today for an editorial board session, said Westdale simply won’t work long-term. She does not support government ownership of the mall, arguing that the county/city shouldn’t be in retail leasing, mall upkeep business. She talked about having to plow big parking lots and fix roof leaks etc.
“I don’t think our obligation is to rescue the mall,” Langston said.
Instead, she said deliberations are in their “infancy” on whether a brand new building should be built to house county, city and school district offices, and perhaps the chamber, Convention and Visitors Bureau and some arts and cultural functions. She rejected my use of the term “government cathedral,” saying instead “we just need a building that works well.”
The biggest question about a new building, she said, is how much federal recovery bucks can be tapped to build it. Discussions are preliminary. Explorations will be thorough. The public will be involved.
“It’s going to be an entertaining couple of years,” she said.
Personally, what I’d like to see is a good, solid, independent analysis on why Westdale won’t work. I think they owe that to all the people who enjoy the current set up. I’m not saying the assessments of Langston and others are wrong, I’d just like to see it in black and white. And it will come in handy when they try to sell people on a new building.
As for a new building, I’d love to see a plan. Until then, I’m neutral/skeptical.