Council to discuss arena financing

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 3, 2000

The most exciting part of the today’s Austin City Council meeting may come after the 5:30 p.

Monday, April 03, 2000

The most exciting part of the today’s Austin City Council meeting may come after the 5:30 p.m. meeting is adjourned, when council members, city staff and Mayor Bonnie Rietz will hold a work session on the multipurpose arena.

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The work session is being held because council members would like to decide as a group where they stand on any more funding for the arena before a Wednesday meeting between city- and county-elected officials and staff.

Second Ward council member Jeanne Poppe, finance committee chairwoman, is pushing council members to move the project forward, even if it does mean more funding from the city.

"It’s a good project and I hope it happens," Poppe said. "I think it’s a very forward thinking thing for the county commissioners to do at the fairgrounds. It’s much better than simply replacing the old buildings and will benefit a lot more people."

If Poppe stands at one end of council opinion on the project, Third Ward council member Gloria Nordin stands at the other. Nordin favors putting a second sheet of ice in next to Riverside Arena and converting the meeting rooms already in the building into locker rooms.

"I’ve been talking to people and many agree," Nordin said. "Let’s put in a simple practice sheet and install a geothermal cooling system."

Poppe was disappointed that she won’t be able to attend the Wednesday meeting because it conflicts with her work, but other finance committee members – Dick Lang and Dick Chaffee – will be certainly be there along with the county board’s finance committee members. At a hearing held Feb. 15, the judge noted, "Defendant’s request for disposition was received and filed with the court on June 14, 1999. Under the statute, the case should have been brought to trial on or before Dec. 14, 1999."

He ordered the case dismissed "with prejudice."

Charges were also ordered dismissed against the younger brother, because of insufficient evidence.


"The case was good and the evidence solid. The witnesses’ description matched Ben, the larger of the two brothers, who had a long, shaggy goatee that hung out beneath the ski mask," Oman said. "His brother, Luke, who was a juvenile at the time, but certified to stand trial as an adult in connection with the case, matched the description of the smaller of the two robbers. I don’t disagree that the case was good."

"But," Oman added, "something happened. I know the court administrator’s office got their copy, but we didn’t."

Patricia Ball, Mower County court administrator, concurs with Oman’s account of the missing form. According to Ball, she has visited with the court administrator’s office staff to assess how to avoid future flukes such as this one.

Mower County Third Judicial District Court cases have increased by 41 percent and currently Rysavy is the only sitting judge. Michael H. Seibel remains on sick leave and judges from other counties in the Third Judicial District have had to fill in.

Now, the district is preparing for a $3.1 million budget shortfall in the state court system, which, Ball said, "could make matters worse."

Retirements and sick leave have taken five judges out of commission in the Third Judicial District.

"We’re really beginning to feel the pinch," said Judge Gerard W. Ring, chief judge of the 11 counties in the Third Judicial District. "The cases continue to pile up, but the resources we need to keep pace with the growing caseload just aren’t there."

State law mandates that criminal cases must get the court’s immediate attention.

One of them, the Burger King armed robbery attempt, didn’t and everyone, Oman, Ball and Philipp say they are frustrated for different reasons.

"Our officers will always continue to do the job to the best of their abilities," Philipp said. "They recognize they are part of a system."

"The sad part is we never had a chance to take this case to court and let it be decided on its merits," Oman said. "It never ceases to amaze me though. Just when you think things will get worse, sometimes they do. This is a worst-case scenario."

"Sometimes things fall through the cracks and this was one of them," Ball said.

As for the suspects/defendants, Ben and Luke Bina.

According to the county attorney, Ben Edward Bina remains incarcerated at St. Cloud and he also said, "I don’t know where Luke is. He’s gone."