I say kudos to the equestrian supporters for putting together a good presentation for taking an idea and turning it into a presentation for what life in Oakley could be like with an equestrian center and how they would like to see placed within the City limits of Oakley. In reviewing the presentation, it’s a solid first start and could be a solid community addition and benefit if done correctly and without city involvement or funding.
Aside from the Randy Pope potential Brown Act Violation (see below), the feedback I’ve received was that the meeting was very positive and productive as a very first step. Still, there is a lot of work to be done and it’s years away from becoming a reality.
As great as the idea sounds and, there are some major holes in the presentation that need to be addressed before unwavering support should be given as this moves forward–which I don’t know how Randy Pope could give it an automatic “yes vote” as he stated during the meeting. That is incredibility stupid and reckless because “a plan” doesn’t make something a good plan–instead, it’s the details and proposal that should decide a “yes” or “no” vote.
For example, there was no cost estimate presented on building the facility or annual upkeep of a facility—that should have been included in the presentation. There was no timeline of implementation of when they would like to build it. What type of liability will the facility have? Who would run the facility?
The truth is, this facility or future upkeep should not be funded by the City of Oakley nor should staff spend time on it other than a guide. This needs to be a community driven project in the form of a non-profit. The funds should come elsewhere from fundraising and investors—any attempt of a parcel tax or bond, forget about it.
Still, those lack of details have me a bit skeptical.
For instance, in the Contra Costa Times article, Bethe Mounice mentioned the Brazos County facility in Texas and how great it was after persuading residents to pass a bond $18.5 million bond in 2000. Looking into that with a quick Google search, I see that facility costs roughly $15.6 million (in Texas might I remind you) and was five-years in the making. It opened in November 2007.
In the Green Eagle Newspaper (Byran-College Station Texas), they reported in March of 2012, the facility was losing money to the tone of $1.8 million. The caveat here was the facility was never intended to make money itself—rather, they wanted to offset any lost revenue by raising revenue for the rest of the area.
Basically, this facility in Oakley could be a similar issue where it’s a leap of faith hoping loses of the facility are offset with tax dollars being spent at restaurants, hotels, and gas stations–there is no guarantee these visitors stay in Oakley, but they could choose Brentwood or Antioch to dine and shop.
The next question, why was no timeline presented? Typically these types of presentation have action item list and a tentative timeline for action—this was missed. By putting it out there, it could have jump started the process by people seeing the plan and wanting to get involved.
Location was not included, where do they want to put the facility? What property would be on their “wish list” and how will the land be acquired? A location is not even being presented or ideas suggested at this time—personally, I say approach Ironhouse Sanitary District with all their excessive land which could provide a win-win for Ironhouse ratepayers and equestrian folks. It may offer a higher return than this so called solar investment they keep touting.
Does it have to be Oakley? Why not another City such as Knightsen or Byron? It may be cheaper, or save a few bucks and headaches and improve a facility already built to build up some of the organizations credibility? All options should be weighted.
These questions are not meant to degrade PACE because they are on the right track, but these questions will be popping up in the future while the debate should be honest–I actually want them to have solid answers because this is a good idea. This is a huge undertaking and will be a lot of work to raise funds.
With a family who have been farmers in Oakley/Knightsen for 30+ years, I get what these folks are wanting to accomplish and I say go for it—but again, as a non-profit. I would hope they are supported and this could be an honest effort by all parties.
Here are some additional thoughts to consider as this goes forward.
- Who is PACE (Promoting Agricultural Community & Equestrian)? I see Nancy D’Cruz is involved. But who else is working towards this goal? If this is going to come forward any further, those folks should be identified in the name of transparency.
- The Group touts the National FFA Organization and 4-H, but are these groups willing to partner and give letters of support and willingness to participate? Is there a potential list from families willing to commit/petition for a reservation for a spot to place animals? What is the 4-H participation level in Oakley?
- The group wants to cite a study that highlights a 2011 analysis of the economic impact that a proposed equestrian park would have on Sonoma County, which estimated that the complex could generate anywhere from $65 million to $300 in revenue. My first though is great, why do they need the city and why wouldn’t someone want to privately fund this facility for that revenue themselves? If the numbers are that amazing, why hasn’t this been created in East County before and turned a profit in the past? Why are there so few centers in the country? The reality is, we are not Sonoma, what is a legitimate figure for East County? Until the rhetoric is turned from a National example, it needs to be focused on Oakley and/or East County.
- When I asked City Manager Bryan Montgomery how many horses were actually in Oakley, he stated there were far less than before. He estimated less than 50. Taking that number, you can assume a home likely has 2-horses or more so you can safely estimate 25-homes or less within City limits have a horse. That highlights Oakley may not have a pressing need. I’d encourage PACE to look into horse permits of all cities in East County and pull those figures into a chart/graph.
- When I asked City Manager Bryan Montgomery for an estimate of how many attended the presentation were from Oakley, he estimated by glancing at the sign-in sheet, around 60% (rough estimate). The question then becomes is this Oakley resident’s pushing this facility or is it equestrian lovers from the area?
- Why not use the PACE to improve the facility at the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds in Antioch? Or re-invent the Knightsen center that went under? This could be used as a stepping stone to build credibility when seeking donors and partners. Invest in existing facilities and make those better to show the potential—or maybe those are the best solution and it hasn’t been explored yet.
- The City basically gave HALO a free building for a year because it was a great cause. That organization then decided to screw up a good thing and now they are out of the building. Take the HALO situation and now multiply the dollar signs by a much larger investment and that’s a leap of faith with an unproven group for what should be a multi-million dollar project.
- I’ll use the phrase potential which is polite at this point, but it appears a potential Brown Act Violation occurred on Tuesday when Randy Pope basically got up and told the group you could count on his vote while Mayor Kevin Romick and Councilwoman Diane Burgis were also in attendance—basically telling everyone how he would vote. The guy who would most want to help actually hurt the group and would now have to recuse himself from this item going forward. If reported, the FPPC would likely fine Councilman Pope.
Personalities set aside, this should be further explored to see if it’s feasible and self-sustaining. It’s a great idea in theory and it makes sense in the talking stages, but the devil is always in the details and that is when reality hits on whether to scale down or move onto something else.
The idea has been presented and now it’s time to do the hard work to push it forward or this idea will die because no one will do the heavy lifting for PACE unless its PACE themselves doing it. For the sake of Oakley, lets hope this works out because I would support it should the numbers work out in the community’s favor.
It could be a win for all.
The following is a copy of their presentation (minus the intro page). Simply click to enlarge the slide.
This is a cherry picked paragraph out of a chapter that talks about a lot of things. To read and review the General Plan, click here.
I must say, this is a very solid slide and excites me. This is how you sell it to the community for non-horse people. If PACE can somehow tie estimated revenue from these types of events listed, I think it makes a solid argument all by itself. It would be hard to say no.
Some facts and figures from other local events in Sacramento, Fresno would be nice as a reference point. Attendance of events and revenue for the last five years would be even better to further back up the claims made in the above statements.
Why North Carolina, which is on the other side of the country, is being included is odd. How this could be applied to Oakley/East County could make for an interesting discussion as the potential of this facility is further discussed in the future.
I disagree with the final slide, the City of Oakley should only be informed of progress by the group as it moves forward. There should not be a partnership and an action committee should be the non-profit board and/or volunteers. This should have all been laid out in this presentation to be perfectly honest.
Going forward, I wish PACE luck in this drive to getting a facility going. I hope they are successful as everyone could benefit from this type of facility if the details work out to the best interest of the community.
The hype and excitement has now been built up, let’s hope there is no giant letdown.
On a side note:
I had asked if the meeting would be recorded. City Manager Bryan Montgomery informed me they would record it. Upon request of the meeting recording, I was informed they taped some of it, but due to bad audio and not being able to pick up the audience, they stopped record.
I then asked to see what they did record. Montgomery then informed me that “It’s not worth the Staff time to download it and it wouldn’t shown you much anyway.”
Nice response huh?
Contra Costa Times