An FBI raid on Ramapo City Hall Wednesday led to seized hard drives and documents relating to alleged corruption in the city, including the building and financing of Provident Bank Park.
FBI spokesman Jim Margolin confirmed the raid, but would not answer questions. A law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation said some of the records sought by federal agents include documents related to Provident Bank Park and the local development corporation that runs the controversial, $38 million baseball stadium that is home to the Boulders.
Shortly before 11 p.m., a swarm of agents carted out two dollies stacked with a number of brown cardboard boxes full of documents as well as computer hard drives. Ramapo’s finance director, Melissa Reimer, walked out of town hall a few minutes after 10 p.m. — more than six hours after the FBI arrived — and told reporters she had no comment….
“Where it leads, whether it’s the stadium, or whether it’s other things that the FBI was given information about, is anybody’s guess at this point, but I think the stadium is certainly a possibility,” Legis. Joe Meyers (D-Suffern) said.
Provident Bank Park is home to the Rockland Boulders (independent; Can-Am League). The financing of the ballpark involved one of the most contentious political processes we’ve seen: after voters rejected public financing of the ballpark, officials went through the city’s economic-development corporation to issue bonds and launch construction. The main argument from opponents: that the ballpark would never generate enough income to cover bond repayment, and that a repayment plan involving the sale of city-owned apartment would not cover debt service. The ballpark ended up costing the city some $60 million.
And that opinion is now shared by Moody’s, as the city prepares to issue $39.2 million in long-term serial bonds for public improvement projects. While Moody’s didn’t separate the ballpark for special criticism, the firm did note the city’s spending in assigning A1 rating (only the fifth highest; six ratings above junk-bond status) and negative outlook for the city:
“The rating incorporates significant erosion of the town’s financial flexibility stemming from four consecutive years of operating deficits from aggressive economically sensitive revenue assumptions and inability to offset mid-year shortfalls,” Moody’s stated on its website. “The rating also incorporates the town’s sizable tax base, which benefits from above-average wealth levels and average debt burden.”Moody’s wrote the “negative outlook reflects our expectations that operations will continue to be challenged due to volatile economically sensitive revenues and limited financial flexibility.”
Moody’s wrote the “negative outlook reflects our expectations that operations will continue to be challenged due to volatile economically sensitive revenues and limited financial flexibility.”
To be clear: Moody’s did not single out the ballpark as the sole factor in the rating. But servcing that ballpark debt was named as an issue.
RELATED STORIES: Ramapo ballpark $300K shy of projected revenues; State: Provident Bank Park could end up costing taxpayers $60 million; Ramapo ballpark lawsuit dismissed; State Comptroller: Ramapo skirted laws in financing new ballpark; Judge: Ramapo ballpark construction will continue; Ramapo ballpark construction resumes; city faces fines; State shuts down Ramapo ballpark construction — again; Lawsuit filed to prevent new Ramapo ballpark; Opponents of Ramapo ballpark to file suit; Ramapo ballpark moves forward; lawsuit threatened; Meanwhile, in the Can-Am League….; After voter rebuke of public funding, Ramapo looks to private sector; Consultant: New Ramapo ballpark has good chance of turning profit; Ownership emerges for Ramapo Can-Am team; Citizens seek public vote on new Ramapo ballpark; Miles Wolff: Can-Am Association eager for Ramapo team
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