It became clear many months ago that the operation and handling of the commercial wrap of the downtown parking garage, formerly known as Hitcents Park Plaza, had major problems.
Contractors filed liens on the property in February for money they said they were owed for work on the wrap. Warren County and Warren County Downtown Economic Development Authority subsequently sued Mills Family Realty, which previously served as the wrap’s developer. Since then, Warren County, the city of Bowling Green and the authority have worked to settle those and related issues. The county is slated to issue $30 million in revenue bonds to fund a settlement with the contractors, pay off existing bonds and complete the wrap – now called Stadium Park Plaza – with Bowling Green Hot Rods owner Jerry Katzoff as developer. Action to make this official was completed in the past few weeks by the three entities.
Months later, the public still doesn’t have many answers as we await a final report from state Auditor Adam Edelen’s office.
Edelen, who lost re-election to Republican Mike Harmon on Nov. 3, announced in June that his office would conduct a special examination of the project, including the use of bond proceeds. We applauded Edelen at the time for launching an investigation into this matter as an investigation was definitely needed.
Edelen’s communication’s director, Stephanie Hoelscher, recently said that they are nearing completion of the field work and have said this is the most complex exam they have conducted in four years. Hoelscher doesn’t know if they will have the audit completed before the end of the year.
Whether finished or not before Harmon takes office in January, we applaud Edelen for taking on this investigation. Edelen has proven to be a capable auditor who took up this probe with several goals in mind, such as finding out what went wrong with the project, determining if money was misappropriated or misused – and if so, who was responsible – and whether there was any unlawful activity related to the project.
We may not get those answers before Edelen’s successor takes office, but it was reassuring to hear that Harmon has said he will probably continue the investigation when he takes over.
Harmon has been briefed by Edelen’s office about the wrap probe. Harmon’s expressed willingness to finish the probe is something we should all get behind.
We know there was insufficient oversight over the wrap and because of that, taxpayer money was possibly used inappropriately, which certainly warrants the completion of this investigation.
The citizens of this community deserve answers as to what actually happened at the former Hitcents Park Plaza. They need to know whether taxpayer money was misused and, if so, who was responsible.
That is what we hope Harmon will deliver to us, assuming he has to finish the audit.
Our citizens have waited a long time for answers and look forward to either Edelen or Harmon providing them.