So city officials were hoping that the Mello-Roos board would sign on to a plan to extend the Mello-Roos tax, which is paid by about 11,400 homeowners in southeast Antioch, for an additional two years, totaling about an extra $3,500 per home than they are currently slated to pay.
Last month the Mello-Roos board rejected the proposed tax extension/increase, largely out of concern that the taxpayers were not adequately informed about and had not agreed to the significant hit to their pocketbooks. That put the ball back in the council's court.
On Tuesday night the council members were presented with several options. Three of those options, costing in the range of $24-26 million, would have scaled down the Prewett plan to either provide a community center and police substation, or a library and a police substation, or a combination of a small library, small community center and small police substation.
The council rejected those scaled-down options and reasserted its desire for a full-blown library, community center and substation totaling 68,000 square feet and costing $45 million. So now the ball is once again back in the Mello-Roos board's court because that plan is still $19 million short of the funding needed.
Council members are in agreement with the Mello-Roos board on one thing, however: they need to reach out to, inform and seek support from the southeast Antioch residents - comprising about one-third of Antioch's population - who will be paying for the new facilities in Prewett.
In an impassioned, 14-minute speech, Mayor Don Freitas argued that the Mello-Roos homeowners already agreed to pay for these facilities when they bought their homes and signed the Mello-Roos disclosure form, which listed all of the amenities envisioned for Prewett Park, including a library, community center, nature center, playgrounds, picnic areas, etc.
And Freitas blasted the Mello-Roos board members for, in his view, shirking their responsibility to provide the park amenities that Mello-Roos homeowners have been promised for nearly two decades.
"I attended a portion of the Mello-Roos meeting and was flabbergasted by some of the statements that were made by the Mello-Roos board," said Freitas. "And I, frankly, am extraordinarily disappointed in some of our representatives on the Mello-Roos board.
"One of the things, quite frankly, in the document that every single person that buys one of the 11,400 houses signs - and it is required - a Mello-Roos disclosure statement. Every single individual, myself included, read this, signed it, and there's an expectation.
"This was an obligation - from my perspective, a moral, a legal and a financial obligation. The board of the Mello-Roos is obligated to fulfill its duties and responsibilities, which was not just building the schools. It was to also build public facilities.
"And I'm very angry, quite frankly, with some of the dialogue that I heard. That somehow, someway we are just going to ignore the legal contract that each of the individuals entered into when they became a part of the Mello-Roos District. I'm asking the Mello-Roos board to do the right thing and to clearly understand what their duty and responsibility is and to act accordingly."
But Councilman Arne Simonsen countered by reading a little further into the disclosure statement, which tended to contradict Freitas' assertions.
"I love it when you show passion," Simonsen said to Freitas. "But in being fair and ensuring that everyone understands what is in the Mello-Roos disclosure, the mayor left out one important section: 'These facilities may not have all been constructed or acquired, and it's possible that some may never be constructed or acquired.'
"So, it was clearly understood in the disclosure that Mr. Freitas and everyone else out in the Mello-Roos signed, 'Hey, there's a great possibility that you are not going to get some stuff.'"
But Simonsen and the other council members agreed and voted unanimously to pursue the full library, community center and police substation plan, beginning with spending about $2 million on consultants to plan and design the facilities. They also agreed to hold two or three workshops for Mello-Roos residents to inform them about the plans and seek their input.
And they agreed to aggressively seek state bond funding to help pay for the facilities, particularly the library. If additional funding is not provided by the Mello-Roos taxpayers or the state, the facilities will probably be phased in, starting with the police substation.
The Mello-Roos board is scheduled to act on the council's latest request at its meeting in the council chambers on Aug. 6.