MINNEAPOLIS -- The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners put up a stop sign just as the proposal to build a new Twins ballpark was apparently gaining momentum.
The commissioners agreed at their bi-monthly committee meeting to delay by one week a decision on whether to seek approval from the state legislature to pursue the ballpark proposal announced by Hennepin County and the Twins on Monday.
At the end of a three-hour meeting that featured nearly an hour of testimony from the general public -- most of which argued against the proposal to increase the countywide sales tax by .15 percent -- the board passed the "progress motion" to put off a vote until next week's County Board meeting, which buys the commissioners time to consider the proposal and five amendments brought forward Tuesday.
After Monday's festive press conference unveiling the specifics of the financial proposal and the 42,000-seat ballpark to be located in Minneapolis' Warehouse District, Twins officials expressed cautious optimism that after nearly a decade of chasing a new ballpark, they'd finally settled on a deal the State Legislature would find palatable.
On Tuesday, Twins president Dave St. Peter cautioned against viewing this as a potential roadblock.
"I wouldn't say we were disappointed," St. Peter said. "We certainly were not surprised. This is about a $500 million project, and nobody should be surprised that the county commissioners, like state legislators, would seek extensive public debate on it.
"It's another step in the process," he added, "and we're confident that one week from now the county board will pass the proposal as written."
St. Peter did note, however, that the delay would compress an already tight timeline, given the legislature's session-ending date of May 23.
"It's imperative if we're going to get the county's approval, that it happen quickly," said St. Peter.
Tuesday's meeting covered agenda items for seven committees, including the Intergovernmental Committee that handles such topics as the ballpark proposal. Dave Lawless, the county's Director of Budget and Finance, laid out the terms of the proposal, including a five-person Ballpark Commission -- a new entity that would oversee the facility -- composed of two members appointed by the county, two appointed by the governor, and one member appointed by the City of Minneapolis.
During the debate, the strongest resistance was provided by Commissioners Linda Koblick and Penny Steele, who clearly were troubled by the thought of approving a proposal they didn't have sufficient time to study.
Steele, citing reports that the .15 percent sales tax would allow the county to pay off its share of the construction and infrastructure costs much earlier than the 30-year term outlined in the proposal, asked Lawless whether the tax was too high and provided too much "wiggle room" for the county, thereby capturing more revenue from taxpayers than needed. Lawless disagreed, stating that .15 percent was a conservative estimate and preferable to setting the bar too low and having to come back years down the road and ask for more revenue.